DATE 5 / 31 / 2019
A little over nine years ago, I decided to start a company. I had just invented a home cleaning hack that I found particularly useful and thought maybe a few million other people could benefit from it as well. It was certainly worth a try.
Though I was woefully and ridiculously unprepared for founding a startup, I had decided that what I lacked in business and manufacturing experience, could be made up for by unflinching determination and a voracious appetite for how-to books. I planned to simply work and read my way to market. Unlike many younger founders, I had enough of my own seed-money to get a running start. A lifetime of saving and investing had given me that.
Only one thing gave me pause; I had recently suffered an inexplicable health event. The “widow-maker” artery of my heart had spontaneously, spectacularly dissected one night during a family dinner leading to a massive, and nearly fatal, heart attack. Nobody could explain why this had happened. I was, by all medical standards young and fit. The vexing question of when or whether it might happen again could only be answered with many-a-doctor’s shrugs. So, despite all the other things I probably should have worried about going in, my biggest concern as a devoted single mother of two young boys, was that the stress of starting a business could actually kill me, so I turned, as always, to books and found a life changer.
This book was written seventy years ago by a gentleman named Dale Carnegie who noticed that many of the business leaders who attended his YMCA class on public speaking were suffering from various crippling nervous ailments caused by their work or lives full of personal stress. Searching the New York Public Library for something to help these students, Dale found precious little about the subject, so he set about writing his own book of solutions. As research, he interviewed well-known military, political and business figures who had successfully conquered their fears while participating in World War II and the ensuing post-war economic boom. His timing could not have been better as the “Golden Age of Capitalism” had just sparked an increasingly competitive business world.
Founders know going in that they will suffer stressful moments, but very few have battle plans for when the worst possible scenarios actually happen. How will you handle it if an entire 50,000 unit shipment arrives just in time to fill a large order from your best customer…but it is riddled with hideously defective products? Do you open each carton, and every single package in it to check for the bad apples before shipping, or risk angering and losing your biggest account? Or maybe a key employee leaves , only to show up two booths down at the next trade show working for your competitor. There will be money woes galore, and impatient investors, audits by the IRS, and copycat products. Frankly, the whole experience can mimic a horrifying board game where you can only advance toward your goal by passing through one sticky situation after another. Will you make it? Yes, if your product is good, and your business practices are sound, and if you can keep your body and your mind healthy, then yes, you certainly might.
I have been lucky. I do have an excellent manufacturer, but I have weathered a few of the storms described above, and many more, and yet have continued to flourish. My single invention for removing pet hair from clothing and upholstery has led to many more popular pet hair removal product inventions, and revenue at Lilly Brush now rises steadily every quarter. For now, our ship is on course. Should the sky grow dark, and I expect it will now and again, I have tools for that.
Whoever you are, and whatever stage of life you’re in, Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living can help you with useful, timeless solutions to some of the deepest darkest wormholes our stressed out minds tend to plummet into. It is, simply put, a seminal life-changing book worthy of a place in your business book library, or on your nightstand. Then should nights turn sleepless, help is near.
Founder, Elsie Hamilton