I started Business MasterMinds in the beginning of 2008. My first company. I had started businesses before but this one was special, something I felt very proud of. An extension of my values, beliefs, that pushed my comfort and gave me lots of room to explore, create, try new things and continue to expand my business acumen. It stimulated me intellectually and creatively. I loved it and still do.

By mid 2008 I was in Europe for a three month trip with my partner. Before I left I put a whole lot of systems in place and had left people in charge. As most big thinkers, there is an amount of delusional optimism that comes with this thinking, where you believe everything will work out the way you plan it, if not better than you imagine it to be. This was all in despite of other more experienced business people telling me otherwise. I’m defiant, I’ve never liked to be told I can’t do something.

Half way through our trip we were in Prague when I got news my father was in intensive care in a Belgrade Hospital. We had just been with him the week before when he was traveling in Italy and he seemed fine. As we were about to head to Ireland to visit my partners grandparents who he hadn’t seen for a few years, I told him to go as we didn’t know when we’d be back, I didn’t want him to have any regrets and I’d go to my father.

Each day in Belgrade was a nightmare, waiting for hours to see my dad because they wouldn’t let people into intensive care. Everyday just waiting to see if he was going to pull through. The hospital was filthy and below the health standards we have here in Australia.

On the last day the doctor came to me as he was really pleased with the progress my father had made and now confident he would survive. Half an hour later I was lifting my father’s purple, blue and pink half naked dead body off the catscan as there wasn’t enough nurses to help lift him. They tried to resuscitate him after that but he never came back. That’s when I really understood the true meaning of the word devastation. That’s when I first wailed.

I was stuck in a place I hated, alone and in extreme emotional anguish, traumatized. There was no direct flights from Dublin and it took my partner two days to get to me. Two weeks later, we managed to finally get a flight home with my Dad’s ashes under my arms.

I emailed my members when I got back explaining my situation and that I needed a few weeks to pull myself together and then I’d be back. What I soon found out was there was a lot of problems with my company. Things where nowhere as good as I was lead to believe. I had to close one of my groups and pause another and there were many unhappy people.

There was one particular women who was most unkind, she lacked that human element that bonds us as humans. She gave me a hard time over a lousy few hundred dollars that she demanded I refund. She went on to explain, that she wasn’t really close to people so she really didn’t understand what it was like when someone close to you dies but she was very close to her cat. When her cat died she was devastated. She couldn’t sleep and barely ate for weeks but she got over it and I should  just get over it too! She told me it was just business, nothing personal. At that stage it had only been a month since my father had died, I was still in shock by the entire event. It was about a month later that I thought of this women and I told myself that I didn’t ever want to deal with people that treated me as a business first rather than a fellow human again and I promised myself that I would treat others the same.

I lost a third of my business membership during those months away. I did the best I could to fix things when i returned and slowly things started to turn around. Six months later things were looking much better, although still emotionally painful, some joy was breathing  into the hours of my day. There was this strange physical pain that was keeping me in bed for a couple of days at a time, I had mostly ignored it as the emotional pain was much greater, until I couldn’t ignore it any longer. After a couple of doctors, a specialist and major surgery I was diagnosed with a “BIG DISEASE” and told I’d need more major surgery. It’s not a cure, but a temporary solution. Full recovery time from surgery was 6-8 weeks.

Grieving the loss of a loved one, a traumatic experience, failing business, unhappy clients, major disease and physical pain, two major surgeries and all this in a year and a half.  Facing all that was emotionally, mentally and physically excruciating. I’m a big thinker, I’m driven to want to achieve and I’m ambitious and I couldn’t grow my company during this time, I barely had the energy to maintain it. That year and a half completely floored me and took me a lot of time afterwards to recovery. I’m still recovering. This kind of adversity is never pleasant and it’s extremely difficult. Adversity is not a friend, it’s harsh, it’s a bitter and twisted reality that happens too some of us but once it’s gone, after you’ve faced it, there’s an inner strength that rises and a strong desire to live life far more meaningful than before. A desire to have real human connections and real honest conversations, no pretense and no bullshit.

Business is personal for me. I choose for it to be but I’m not my business and my business is not me. It’s a reflection, an extension of my life principles. I am a human being having a business experience and so are my members and that’s the way I like it. I come across many in a small business who choose to separate who they are when you meet them. They try to pitch or sell or pretend that business is so amazing and fantastic and successful and perfect. It’s mostly bullshit, I can tell. They remind me of puffer fish, when you get too close they blow up to be bigger than what they really are.

My current members are awesome. I love them. They trust me, they trust my company’s  brand. They want me and my company to succeed just as much as I want for them. They give me lots of suggestions, ideas and feedback to help, they give me their valuable time and well acquired knowledge. They treat me and their fellow members like human beings, not businesses they sell too and I love that. I love it that I have a business community of smart, kind and honest people. All of this has come out of my experience with personal adversity. That doesn’t mean that business is easy, it’s not, sometimes it’s really tough, with bootstrapping and the normal challenges of a small business but the meaning it now has keeps me going. The connections I now have keep me going. Coming out of adversity has given me that.

Article By Angelique Milojevic