The #1 Difference Between CEOs Who Do & Don’t Survive Hard Times

8 min read
Aug 24, 2022

Economic recessions, slumping sales, ghosting prospects- The list of the things that can go wrong in business is never-ending.

Unfortunately, most CEOs who get hit with problems do not survive.

They do not survive not because they are incapable of overcoming the problems, but because they respond inappropriately.

Moreover, a CEO’s response to challenging circumstances, not the challenges themselves, kill them!

I am sharing the #1 difference between CEOs who do and do not survive hard times.  Specifically, the difference in how CEOs respond to challenges.

Additionally, and more importantly, I am sharing how to effectively respond to any problem that comes your way.

If you have not experienced hard times before, know they are coming! Prepare yourself before hard times overwhelm you and your business, and it is too late.


Hard Times Are Guaranteed


Some say there are only two guarantees in life: Death and taxes.

If I could add a third guarantee to that list, it would be experiencing hard times.

When I say hard times, I mean going through experiences that push you out of your comfort zone.

If you are an entrepreneur who has yet to be pushed out of your comfort zone, know it is coming sooner or later!

Best to prepare for it instead of letting it shock you.


Most of the World Is Out of Your Control

You do not control the world.

You do not control if an economic recession hits or if your competitors develop products that are better than yours.

While you do not control the entire world, you do control your world.

Controlling your world is about controlling how you respond to what the world throws at you.

Realizing that most things are outside of your control can make you feel powerless.

However, controlling your response to the world is more powerful than you think!

You can change your world by learning how to effectively respond to things out of your control.


Facing Challenges Is Not a Bad Thing

Facing hard times or problems is not necessarily a bad thing.

Remember, hard times and problems are simply you being pushed out of your comfort zone.  

There is nothing inherently wrong with feeling uncomfortable.

Does it feel good to get pushed out of the comfort zone?  No.

But just because an experience does not necessarily feel good does not mean it is bad for you.


Is That a Recession I Hear?

Perhaps the most challenging time for an entrepreneur to navigate is an economic recession.

Recessions are particularly challenging because the entire business world goes into panic.

Trying to keep your cool when the entire world is freaking out is nothing short of difficult.

Even though the world goes crazy when recessions hit, the truth is recessions are one of the best business opportunities the world can give you!

That is, if you know how to harness their power.

In fact, most challenges, including economic recessions, are business growth opportunities in disguise.

Again, you cannot control if hard times, like a recession, hit.  But you can control how you respond to them.


How Most CEOs Respond to Hard Times


Most entrepreneurs respond to hard times as if they do not want to survive.

Moreover, they respond to hard times so inappropriately that their response ends up killing them.

That said, here is how most CEOs respond to challenges and hard times.

If you want to succeed in business, DO NOT do this.


Getting Extremely Emotional

First, most entrepreneurs respond to challenges without thinking.

Instead of thinking out a logical way to respond to a challenge, they allow emotions to take over and respond based on feelings.

Responding to hard times with emotions is a default human setting; everybody instinctively responds to hard times with emotions unless they undo the default setting.

The second CEOs let emotions override logic is the moment all hell breaks loose.

Straight up: You will NEVER survive hard times if you respond to them out of emotion.

Instead of surviving, you will end up in a Will Smith, Chris Rock situation doing something stupid because your feelings told you to do it.

I am not saying emotions and feelings are meaningless.

Instead, I am saying responding to a challenge out of emotion is a disaster waiting to happen.


Making the Problem Worse

The moment you act out of emotion is the moment you make a hard time ten times harder.

Think about it like this: If you are swimming and suddenly get caught in a current, acting out of emotion by kicking and screaming will cause you to drown.  Or, at least you will struggle to stay above the surface.

But if you stay calm and use logic to remind yourself that floating keeps you safe, you will survive.

In business, responding to a challenge out of emotion only makes the situation more challenging.

Why sabotage yourself like that?


Ending Up in a Worse Position Than Where They Started

One of two things happen when you respond to challenges with emotion, including:

  1. You do not survive; or
  2. You end up in a worse situation than where you started.

First, many entrepreneurs who respond to challenges with emotion do not survive.  They sabotage themselves so much that they need to start from scratch.

Second, most entrepreneurs who survive challenges end up in a worse position than before the challenge started.

For example, they lose a significant amount of money because they make decisions out of emotion and customers start jumping ship.

The only way to end up in a better position than before a challenge is to respond with logic instead of emotion.

Sadly, only a fraction of CEOs do that…


The #1 Difference Between CEOs Who Do & Do Not Survive Hard Times


The #1 difference between CEOs who do and do not survive hard times is habits.

Entrepreneurs who survive and thrive during challenging circumstances do so because they have effective habit patterns.

Habits prevent CEOs from reflexively responding to problems out of emotion.  Instead of reflexively responding with emotion, they react with logic.

Surviving challenges and coming out better on the other side is not complicated: Simply adopt solid habits to keep emotions in check.


Habits Keep the Reflexive Emotions System in Check

Having healthy business habits is CRITICAL because they keep your emotions in check.

They prevent you from reflexively responding out of emotion when hard times strike.

Consider this: Whenever a catastrophe strikes, the human body goes into reflex mode.  It does this to respond quickly to the situation while preserving energy.

The default reflex response in humans is fight or flight.  Once fight or flight gets activated, the emotional response system goes into overdrive as a means of protection.  From there, you are very likely to respond out of emotion.

The formula looks like this:

Catastrophic event occurs → fight or flight activated → emotions go through the roof → make decisions out of emotion.

Fight or flight mode may have been useful in the age of saber tooth tigers.  These days, however, fight or flight is almost anything but helpful.

That said, you can override your body’s instinctive, emotional reflex response system by adopting certain habits.  Habits help you react with logic instead of emotion.


Responding Out of Emotion = Never-Ending Stress

Responding out of emotion to a catastrophic event increases your cortisol levels.

Cortisol is the stress hormone.

Cortisol levels work with emotions like a feedback loop:

The emotional responses system activates → cortisol increases → increases emotional responses → cortisol increases → repeat forever.

While you are going through the cycle of increasing emotions and cortisol, your problems are getting worse.

Therefore, you must disrupt your body’s instinct to respond emotionally to keep cortisol levels low.

The longer you respond out of emotion, the more stressed you will get and the worse your problems become.


You Must Override Your Reflex to Respond Out of Emotion! (IMPORTANT)

The only way to stop responding to catastrophes out of emotion is by overriding your body’s reflexive instinct to react with emotion.

You want to go from this…

Catastrophic event occurs → fight or flight activates → emotional response system activates and cortisol increases → make decisions out of emotion → problems get worse → repeat.

To this…

Catastrophe occurs → healthy habit mode activates → shut off emotional response system → make decisions out of logic → improve the situation.

Habits will override your body’s reflexive instinct to respond with emotions.

The more ingrained your habit patterns become, the greater the odds you will respond to catastrophes effectively.


How to Use Habits to Survive Any Problem That Comes Your Way


Here is how to go from responding reflexively to problems out of emotion to responding with logic by implementing healthy business habits.

These habits will save you the next time a challenge out of your control comes at you.

Again, habits are crucial because they keep your emotions in check.  

Ultimately, keeping emotions in check to respond with logic is what survival is all about.


Focus on Building These Two Habit Patterns

To begin, there are two habit patterns you want to foster, including:

  • Positive thought patterns
  • Sales patterns

First, change the way you think about hard times and challenges in business.

Instead of thinking about situations like recessions as death sentences, start thinking of them as the advantages they are.

The more you see challenges as events working in your favor, the more likely you are to override emotions.

Second, get into the habit of making sales your top priority.

Almost any business problem can be solved with sales!  

Incoming recession?  Make more sales to increase cash flow.  Unsatisfied customers?  Improve your sales processes.

Therefore, get into the habit of making sales your top priority.  Focus at least 75% of your energy on sales on a daily basis.

That way, a challenge will strike and you will already be in sales mode ready to respond to it.

While there are many other habits to work on, changing your thoughts and sales habits are the most important.


Ingrain Habits In The Subconscious Mind to Disrupt Emotional Reflexes

Second, ingrain your new habit patterns into your subconscious mind by making them daily goals.

For example, set a daily sales goal to make 25 cold calls per day.  Having a 25 cold call per day goal is a way of making sales progress a habit.

Also, set a daily goal to journal everyday about the challenges you're facing and the potential for each to be an advantage.

Habits do not become habits unless you work on them on a daily basis.


Because, the more often you do them, the more they get ingrained into your subconscious mind.

The subconscious mind controls your reflex response systems.

That said, you will not disrupt the emotional reflex response unless you get your new habit patterns cemented into your subconscious.

The only way to get them into your subconscious is by doing each on a daily basis.


Remind Yourself That Hard Times Are Inevitable

Finally, regularly remind yourself that hard times are inevitable.

I am not saying sit around all day and contemplate the problems of the world.

I am saying you should regularly remind yourself of the inevitable problems that come with the business world.

The more you recognize the inevitable, the more your habits ingrain into your subconscious mind.

The more your new habits ingrain into the subconscious, the more likely you are to override your reflex emotional response system.

Never ignore the inevitable; ignoring the inevitable only proves that you are afraid of it.

If you are afraid of the inevitable, you will go back to reflexively responding to it out of emotion.


Final Thoughts on CEOs Who Do and Do Not Survive Hard Times


The only difference between CEOs who do and do not survive challenging circumstances is how they respond to them.

CEOs who overcome challenges respond to them with logic, while CEOs who get run over by challenges respond out of emotion.

CEOs who respond with logic do so by overriding their emotional response system with habits.  

Habits ensure they respond to catastrophes with logic instead of emotion!

You DO NOT need years of experience or the brightest mind to survive extreme challenges.  All you need is to develop habits to keep emotions in check.

Tough times will crush you unless you keep your emotions in check with habits.

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