What do you do to make progress and get things done in times of great stress, grief or anxiety?
Sometimes it’s hard to stay strong, focused and productive during times of great setbacks or tremendous loss. Like everyone else, I’ve had times in my personal and professional life where I’ve had times of great adversity, stress, grief, and anxiety. Board of directors, investors, employees, your friends and your family will give you some grace, of course. Some of these constituencies more that others! But we have to continue to drive things forward even during these times. So how do we deal with the emotion of these situations and remain productive?
The Imitation Game
I’m a book freak, a movie buff, and I love films that have a great story and amazing character development whether it is fiction, non-fiction or science fiction. There was a great movie that came out in 2014 called The Imitation Game. It is about the precursor to artificial intelligence, or man and machine if you will, and the man behind the machine.
The movie takes place during World War II and starts in 1939 when the newly created British intelligence agency, MI6, recruited Cambridge mathematics alumnus Alan Turing (portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch) to crack Nazi codes, including Enigma, which cryptanalysts thought was unbreakable. Turing’s team, including Joan Clarke (portrayed by Keira Knightley), analyzed Enigma messages while Turing built a machine to decipher them. Turing and the team finally succeed and became heroes, but in 1952, the quiet genius encountered disgrace when authorities discovered that he was gay, a crime in England at the time. It is really horrible that it was illegal to be gay, but barbaric that the solution was imprisonment and chemical sterilization.Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence, or AI. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should check it out. It was produced by the now infamous Weinstein Company, but it is still a great film.
Sometimes I feel a little bit like Alan Turing, not because he’s gay and not because I’m a genius, but because sometimes I feel more like a machine than a person. Although I do have deep emotions and sensitivity, I am able, at times, like many Type A personalities and successful business people, to focus on a situation at hand with some level of emotional detachment, and accomplish a great deal without letting my emotions get in the way of getting things done. I use my emotions to drive my passion and focus instead of letting them be debilitating to me. But there are definitely times when this becomes increasing difficult.
The Craziness of the World that We Live In
Late 2017 and early 2018 has been a very interesting time in the world. The Russian government interfered with our election process, Harvey Weinstein was called-out for his horrible behavior toward women that he used from his position of power as a top movie executive. 17 people, mostly children, were killed in another school shooting, this time in Parkland, Florida. Oprah Winfrey gave a moving speech at a Hollywood awards ceremony popularizing the hashtag #timesup and the #metoo movement around sexual harassment, the president of the United States was accused of an illicit affair by an adult film actress, visit here to Access the hdpornvideo collection of XXX videos, no you won’t be seeing the president – but you’ll be able to see the other half of that affair, and AI based machines have learned how to beat professional poker players at the game that they have mastered. It’s hard not to get wrapped-up in the drama and emotion of it all. Can we really be a man and machine and face all this craziness without becoming overwhelmed?
The Ups and Down of Life
It’s been an interesting time for me personally as well, with very high highs and some pretty tough lows. One of the biggest highs was that I got married in early August and went to Eastern Europe with my new bride for two weeks on our honeymoon. My octogenarian parents were not able to attend the wedding since my mom was having some mobility issues and made a decision a couple years prior to avoid airplane travel. A couple weeks after the honeymoon, my new wife and I went to my hometown, St. Louis, Missouri, to see my parents. It was a great trip and was really nice to share a lot of pictures and stories about the wedding and the honeymoon. Which gets me to one of the tough lows: a month later, in mid October, my mother passed away from a heart attack. My mom had fought a few different battles with cancer over the years, and had been dealing with some chronic pain issues, but it was still surprising that she had died so suddenly.
My Mom was My Biggest Champion
My mom, Ann Ellen Henry, was 82 years young. My dad, my brother Joe and my dad’s two remaining sisters, Carolyn and Gerri were there when she passed. My mom was always my biggest champion and greatest supporter. She endured her father leaving her and her mom for another woman when she was 13 years old, cancer three times, raising four kids, the death of an adult child (my brother Tim), and the ups and downs of being married to my dad for nearly 60 years. My dad could be really difficult.
My mom rarely complained, was always the glue in our family, and loved all of her kids unconditionally until the day that she died. I know that she is with God now, and has no more pain and suffering, which she endured silently for many years. She is survived by my dad, my older sister, one of my younger brothers, and seven grandkids.
I flew to St. Louis a few days after my mom passed to see my dad and my siblings, and to see what I could do to help out. My mom donated her body to Washington University School of Medicine to help the progress of science, so there was no wake and no funeral at her request. My mom wanted us to celebrate her life, and I hope to do that every day for the rest of mine. I tried to call my parents every other weekend just to talk and tell them that I loved them.
My mom had her breasts removed due to cancer a few months before her death, and she never complained about it. When I was in first grade, my teacher insisted that I get my hearing checked because I would rock back and forth at my desk. We did get my hearing checked and it was perfect. These days a kid like me would be given drugs to make life easier for the teacher. That same teacher told my mom that “Patrick would never be an A student.” I went on to graduate at the top of my class at Georgia Tech in engineering, and at the top of my class at USC in graduate business school. Thank God that my mom didn’t listen to that teacher.
My mom always stood by my side and supported me. When she thought I was wrong, she would tell me, but at the end of the day, she always loved me and supported me. I miss my mom very much.
On the trip to St. Louis, I planted a seed in my dad’s mind about visiting us in California to see his grandkids. He pushed-back on the idea, but a month later he called me and said that he wanted to come out. He was able to visit us for four days in mid-December and spend time with four of my five kids. My adult son Austin lives in Dallas, Texas and was not able to be here.
My Dad Taught me the Value of Hard Work
On an early morning in January, just as my wife and I were pulling out of the driveway on a short out of town trip, I got a call from my dad’s phone. It was my brother Joe. He informed me that my dad had been sick for the last couple of days and he had just went into my dad’s bedroom to say goodbye before going to work, and my dad was dead. Obviously another tough low. I’m guessing that the loss of my mom was just too much for dad. Charles Edward Henry was 83 years old. He served three years in the US Marine Corps out of high school, and then worked for Union Electric (now Ameren) for over 40 years. He is survived by me, my brother Joe and my sister Teri, and eight grandkids. He was from a big family with five sisters and a brother, and his sister Gerri and Carolyn are still with us. My dad had a full life. I learned a lot from him, but probably the biggest things: work hard, be generous to other people, don’t look down on anyone, be there for your friends in a clutch, and protect your family. My dad donated his body to Washington University School of Medicine, just like my mom.
Man and Machine: Dealing with Loss While Dealing with Reality and Remaining Productive
Over the last two months, I have spent half of my time in St. Louis dealing with my dad’s estate, selling a home that I own where my parents were living over the last 15 years, helping my brother and my sister get relocated and settled into their new homes since they were both living with my parents, doing the things that you must do in life as a husband and a father, and trying to keep things moving forward with QuestFusion with a new exciting product launch. I also found out in the last two weeks that my best friend from high school, who was the best man in my wedding, has been diagnosed with a relapse of cancer. Pretty tough stuff.
I think that I am better equipped than most people to deal with crisis since I can focus on the desired outcomes, instead of getting wrapped up in the emotion and challenges of situations. This has served me well as an entrepreneur, a business executive, and now as the person needing to deal with the very challenging time of the loss of both parents and help my siblings, especially my sister who is permanently disabled.
If I have learned one thing during this process, it’s that life is precious. Do what you love and love what you do. Take time to grieve, feel the pain, and don’t just stuff the emotions. At the same time, don’t let your emotions control you all day every day and prevent you from doing the right things and the things that need to get done. In entrepreneurship and in life, it is very important to navigate your way successfully through situations, especially times of great challenge, stress, anxiety, and yes, even grief. Should I be a man? Should I be a machine? I’d say, to be a real, genuine and success man or woman, you need to be “man and machine”.
I encourage you to think of decisions, especially during times of great stress or anxiety, as more of a process, focusing on outcomes, instead of getting wrapped up in the emotion. Use the emotion to fuel your passion instead of letting it shut you down.
What is the biggest struggle that you are faced with today in your personal and professional life, and how do you deal with things when the pressure is high and there is a ton if stress and anxiety? What are your strategies for coping and continuing to move forward?
This is Patrick Henry, CEO of QuestFusion, with The Real Deal…What Matters.