We had just lost over $100,000 on an event we spent 9 months of the year creating. 9 months of pouring my own time, love, and energy into every last detail, and 9 months of our team’s talent, dedication, and effort.
The event required so much of our time and resources, in fact, that we had taken our eye off our main business and let it dwindle down to one client.
“It’s ok,” Dush and I would say to each other.
“We’ll make a big profit on the event in the fall.”
Instead, we found ourselves with a thick noose of debt tied around our necks and trying to run our company, make payroll, and keep our own life afloat (mortgage, bills, etc.) on the revenue from one single client.
We were a sinking ship and unlike Dush, who was somehow able to turn his focus to bailing water and righting the barge, I couldn’t take my eyes off the plunging nose dive we were in.
On top of that, I had family issues. 30 years of issues, in fact, that were coming to a head.
And let me tell you, when you start scratching at a wound that old, it’s going to be a gusher.
My brother was in a skiing accident in 1988 that left him a quadriplegic. I was 11 – three days away from turning 12 – and he was 14, turning 15 in a couple of months. Me a 6th grader and he a freshman in highschool.
We were skiing with my Dad, my cousin, and a friend of mine when my brother hit a mogul he didn’t see and flew off into the trees.
Life changed for our “Leave It To Beaver” family in the snap of a finger.
Pressure, fear, and the massive weight of uncertainty became our new reality.
Just yesterday, reality had been a happy family of four who skied and snowmobiled in the winter, water skied and tubed in the summer, went camping in a yellow VW van with a pop top, and went on vacations to places like Disneyland and New York.
My parents did a truly incredible job in steering us through what seemed like impossible odds, but there’s no way to go through a massive trauma like that without a lot of shrapnel getting buried under your skin along with the way.
And I had a ton of it.
…“I need to dim my
light so my brother’s
can shine brighter”…
…”If I don’t put myself second, my parents won’t love me”…
…and, “None of my
because I’m not the one
in the wheelchair, so I
just need to suck it up.”
But as I sat there in my counselor’s office, on that cold gloomy December day, I was blind to all of that.
What I thought I had was a money problem, and what I needed was to clear my mind long enough to figure a way out.
Because at the root of those money problems and my dying business sat all that shrapnel I listed above, along with a few more pieces thrown in for good measure. It had slowly and insidiously been eating away at my soul for 30 years and digging it out would be a big, gory mess.
As my counselor asked me about various ways I could solve my money problems (could you get a job? Could you take out a loan? Could you work in the evenings?), the overwhelm started building up inside me. My vision narrowed, my heart rate jacked up about 200 beats per minute, the blood drained from my face, and I was on the verge of passing out.
“I think I’m having a heart attack. I need you to call 911”, I managed to say to my counselor.
But unlike my first panic attack in 2016, I didn’t bounce back.
I spent the next 6 months drowning in debilitating panic and anxiety, and plagued by…
…moments of crying uncontrollably because I didn’t know what was wrong with me…
…weeks of pure exhaustion, yet not being able to sleep without medication…
…moments of rage that left me scared of myself…
…days of not having the soundness of mind to work…
…and regular physical symptoms, like chest pains and numbness in my face, back, and arms, that left me constantly worrying whether or not I was having a heart attack or a stroke, even though I’d been cleared by a doctor more than once.
It was the darkest, scariest time of my life. I tried everything I could think of to get better, but for months, nothing worked.
Fortunately for me, my story has a happy ending. With the help of some fabulous Eastern and Western medicine doctors, months of intense EMDR therapy with a terrific counselor (not the same one where I had had the panic attack), and the unwavering support of my loving husband, the clouds started to part by June of 2018.
Looking back, 6 months doesn’t seem like that long and I know there are lots of people who suffer from mental health issues for far longer periods. But when I was in the thick of it, and there was no end in sight, each of those months felt like a year.
Now here’s the part that might surprise you…
…if I had known what was on the other side of that nervous breakdown, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Every excruciating, painful, gut-wrenching moment.
I have less anxiety than even before my breakdown, the nights I spin on worry are few and far between, and faith and optimism are much more frequent visitors in my mind than fear.
And funny enough, as soon as I started heading in the right direction, our business did as well.
So here’s what I’ll leave you with.
I’ve learned many lessons by going through this journey, but this was a big one:
Our lives and our businesses can be nothing more than a reflection of our inner selves.
If what you’ve built is lying on top of a foundation of shrapnel like mine…bricks labeled with the names of people you want to please or who have told you what you should be doing…and no sense of who you really are at your core…
…the question of your castle crumbling is simply a matter of when; not if.
Maybe the destruction will be more than what I went through; maybe it will be less. But eventually you will face destruction of some kind. The body always wins.
If, however, you’ve built your life and your business in a way that’s aligned with the real you- if you’ve built on a foundation of self-love and integrity – you have something that is built to last.
There are few guarantees in life, but if you build this way, you’re guaranteed to have you.
And that’s really all you need to build anything else.
I was sitting in one of the uncomfortable chairs at the boarding gate at the
My world had just ended.
I had lost a business deal on which I had worked for over a year.
You see, just about a year prior to that, I had started a software company,
and the first big prospect I had was an aerospace company in Montreal.
I was bidding on a major project that would have put my small fledgling
company on the map…
…and given us revenue we needed desperately.
To go after this big piece of business, I had taken out a second
mortgage on my home and maxed out my credit cards.
It was an ‘All or nothing’ strategy.
It was like pushing the whole pile of chips to the center of the
poker table and saying ‘All in’
Except I had lost.
The aerospace company had just bought from a competitor.
A competitor with an inferior solution.
A solution that would not solve the customer’s problem.
But, I had lost.
Lost potentially everything.
I got up off that chair and wandered aimlessly over to the airport book shop across from the gate.
I wasn’t looking to buy a book.
I just wanted to move. To walk. To think. To do SOMETHING.
Just to figure out a way out of the situation I was in.
As I listlessly browsed the racks, one book with a white and purple cover caught my eye.
I picked it up and started leafing through the pages.
The more I read, the more I felt that the author of the book was speaking right to me.
It was like having a mentor right in the palm of my hands.
It was so riveting that I bought the book right there and then and started reading it.
I went back to that uncomfortable bench and sat there reading until my flight was called.
And I read all the way through my flight home.
By the time the flight landed some two hours later, my mood had changed..
I was filled with enthusiasm, determination and energy.
I had some great ideas on how I was going to come back from this adversity.
The book was ‘Awaken the Giant Within’ by Tony Robbins.
As good as the book was, though, it didn’t measure up to what I really longed for – someone who could mentor me in person.
I wanted someone I could reach out to and ask questions…someone who had been there…someone who could share their wisdom and experience with me.
Someone who could understand and give me hope, because they had been there too, and had made their way out.
Someone live…not just a book.
But since a book was all I had, that’s what I worked with.
We had moved on from that devastating loss
And by tightening the purse-strings that were already tight to the breaking point…
…we weathered the storm.
In the year that followed that fateful day in Montreal, we had Boeing, Polaroid Corporation, Ingersoll-Rand and Case-International Harvester Tractors as customers paying us 100s of thousands of dollars a year
But I have never forgotten that day in Montreal.
And the thought that always stayed in my mind was:
“How many other entrepreneurs are going through their own version of that fateful day in their own lives?”
“How many of them are contemplating terrible thoughts – of giving up, of admitting defeat and of finally succumbing to the disappointment of failure?”
What I didn’t realize in that moment of failure, was…
It’s just a bump in the road. Not the end of the road.
But when you’re in the moment, experiencing that failure, it’s hard to think of it as temporary.
Every fiber of your being tells you that your world is at an end.
But with the help of someone who has gone through what you’re going through you can start to find a way forward.
The author of a book will do in a pinch, but ideally a live person who can offer you compassion and a listening ear, in addition to their guidance.
Someone who can get you moving, one step at a time. Putting one foot in front of the other, until you’re clear of your obstacle.
Having gone through it myself, I wanted to do everything I could, to help other entrepreneurs.
I decided then that I would build a business that would help entrepreneurs succeed.
To rise above their temporary failures and show them how to start again when it feels like the end.
Because what my experience taught me is this: on the other side of failure is a life of abundance, joy and fulfillment. You just have to be brave enough to keep going…and there’s nothing that boosts bravery quite like having a guide to show you the way.
My mission is to create wealth and abundance for brave entrepreneurs by leveraging my gifts and hard won experience to their benefit.
Terra Ramachandran is an entrepreneur, writer, and speaker. She holds a degree in Organizational Communications and is a certified image consultant through the London Image Institute. When she’s not working, you can find her in the gym, reading a fashion magazine, a cooking magazine, or a personal development book, or sipping on a martini and enjoying a delicious conversation with the love of her life, Dush.
Dush Ramachandran is a serial entrepreneur, author, speaker, and host of the Entrepreneur Effect – a podcast Inc. Magazine listed as one
of their top 15 podcasts for entrepreneurs. He holds a degree in physics from St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore University, and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management.
When he’s not working, you can find Dush at the gym, geeking out on cars, motorcycles, and the latest technology, or toasting martini glasses with the woman of his dreams, Terra.