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It can happen – business goes down, we don’t get the promotion, we wind up with an unexpected bill, we get fired or demoted, we get sick and our career goes in a backslide; life can throw us some unexpected curves and as exhausting, frustrating, and debilitating as it may feel, the only answer is the turnaround.

Although everyone loves a good turnaround story, and there are many, it is tough to live through them.  Our nature is one that wants things to turnaround quickly however the reality is that turnarounds may take years.

Consider the following epic turnarounds:

In the year 2000, I went from owning a health club, being on radio, and television, getting free dinners at restaurants, and being a local celebrity, to getting diagnosed with MS, my marriage falling apart, and losing my business in a 16-week period.  6-years later, I was a millionaire, and it would take over a decade to start to truly get healthy.  The thing with turnarounds is the daunting, and deeply challenging time, that happens between the loss and the next victory.

Turnaround stories tend to follow a very similar pattern.  The hero of the story works to achieve victory.  The hero becomes a little over-confident.  The hero gets taken out by a circumstance.  The hero works harder than ever before and comes back to claim victory.  Movies from Rocky to The Pursuit of Happiness, all chronical this same epic flow however when it isn’t on a screen or written about in a novel, it can feel overwhelming to contemplate our own turnaround.

Having lived health, financial, and relationship turnarounds, knowing firsthand how painful then can be, I wanted to share 5 key steps that turnaround experts use in business and life; the same ones I used myself to come back from a place that doctors, and other experts, thought was impossible.

5 Steps to Creating an Epic Turnaround

  1. Humble Yourself

At 27, with $300 to my name, as a divorced single mom who had lost her business, had been given a terminal diagnosis, and publicly humiliated, I had to humble myself.  I was exhausted, felt broken, and didn’t know what to do.  I literally got down on my knees and prayed to God, ‘if you will show me a way, I will do the work.’  I didn’t pray to be saved from the situation, I prayed for a path.

Every turnaround requires great humility.  Tiger Woods was at the top of his game when news came out that he was cheating on his wife.  The public scrutiny, combined with self-actualization, forced Woods to get humble.  It takes a great deal of humility to stay in a game, that you excelled at, for 11 years without a victory.

When we are humble, the answers appear.  It is our egos that prevent us from clarity.

  1. Identify How You Got There

We often don’t just lose our job or have a business go sideways.  We don’t just suddenly start losing.  There are always things that have occurred that created the pathway for us to be in the position we are now.

I didn’t just get MS, I gave myself MS with stress.  I didn’t just lose my business, I decided to ignore the financials and allow other people to handle them.  For my own turnaround to occur, I had to take a deep look at my own deliberate ignorance and identify everything that led to those cataclysmic 16-weeks.

If you are facing your own turnaround, identify everything that got you to this point.  Did you stop bringing in new customers, did you start ignoring current customers, did you choose to ignore your financials, did you stop innovating?

Companies, and leaders, who fail to turnaround often ignore this critical step of self-actualization.

  1. Take 100% Responsibility

Once you have identified the path to the fall, it is time to own it by taking 100% responsibility.  If you were passed up for a promotion, then own it.  Could you have performed better?  Have you been talking about the boss behind their back?  Could you have come in earlier, or stayed later, to set yourself apart?

If your business is going backward, own it.  Jim Collins, in his best-selling book – Good to Great, wrote, ‘great leaders look inward when things are going down and look outward when things are going well.’  In other words, a great leader takes responsibility in times of crisis and understands that the turnaround is entirely up to them.

  1. Focus on What Creates Results

In times where a turnaround is required, it is easy to want to ‘Netflix and chill,’ avoiding anything and everything that can actually help us turn things around.  Deluding ourselves by saying that making the perfect Instagram post will help or liking and commenting on other people’s social media is far from the truth.

Creating results ultimately comes down to things like:

  • Generating more sales
  • Increasing follow-ups
  • Networking
  • True innovation
  • Getting the new product to market
  • Paying off the debt
  • Getting a second job until the financial situation turns around

By focusing on what creates results, we inherently stop focusing on what doesn’t.  If what we think worked, we likely wouldn’t be in the situation we are in.  Make a list of what actually creates results and spend 80% of your time doing it.

  1. Learn to The Next Level

Turning things around often requires learning new skills or enhancing existing ones.  If, for example, sales are going backward, do you need to learn how to sell more effectively online or market your services more effectively?

The speed of business is faster than it has ever been.  Learning new skills is essential to growing, and even maintaining, a business.  To create my own turnaround, back in 2000, I started voraciously reading books on self-development, finance, leadership, and sales.  From 2000 to 2006, I estimate that I was reading 2-4 books per month including audio books.

Even today, I am constantly learning.  Whether it is watching ‘how to’ videos on YouTube, getting a certificate at MIT, or learning how to build sales funnels; to compete in today’s market, learning is essential.

In every Rocky movie, there was a turnaround scene where The Champ comes back from a loss and ultimately wins.  In the new Rocky series, Creed, the same is true.  At the end of the day, succeeding at your own turnaround will always be more rewarding than watching one on the big screen.


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Susan Sly

Author Susan Sly

Susan Sly is considered a thought leader in AI, award winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker, best-selling author, and tech investor. Susan has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime, ABC Family, and quoted in Forbes Online, Marketwatch, Yahoo Finance, and more. She is the mother of four and has been working in human potential for over two decades.

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