I’m not an angry person. If anything, I tend to err on the side of being too patient and too nice, especially in business.
I always try to see the best in people and meet them wherever they are in their lives. After all, you never know what else is happening in their world that may influence their behavior.
However, when I get angry, I get very angry. I’m not one to yell or pound my fist. Instead, my anger is suppressed and ignored until it boils over. When that happens, the reaction is visceral and intense. To quote John Dryden, the 17th century, British poet and dramatist, “Beware the fury of a patient man”.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve truly lost my temper. It’s a fact that I pride myself on because as an entrepreneur I routinely deal with things that would send the average person into a rage-induced fit.
At this very moment, however, I’m angrier than I’ve been in a long time. The situation I’m dealing with is complicated and nuanced but sufficed to say I’m dealing with a scenario where I’ve been strung along and subjected to a casual lack of respect that is nothing short of astonishing.
Some of my closest friends and advisors have urged me to respond in kind and fight fire with fire. After all, between my writing and television work I have a very strong platform upon which I can call out injustices as I see them.
For a while, in fact, I contemplated taking a firmer stance. I imagined venting my anger at one person in particular and helping him to realize just how vulnerable he truly was.
I contemplated how good it would feel to be an instrument of justice, calling out the misdeeds of this individual to save others from a similar situation. I had the means and motivation to send a torpedo his way that would rock his world like he wouldn’t believe.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I fell back on my mindfulness practice and thought long and hard about the issue. After a few hours, I came to a startling conclusion. Acting out in anger wouldn’t help me. In fact, it probably wouldn’t even end up being the cathartic experience I was hoping for.
Instead, I chose to refocus my anger and turn it to my advantage.
Use it to help you conquer your fears
The first question I pondered was, “Why am I so angry?” Of course, I knew the circumstances that had led me to this point. But why did I let them hijack my soul?
I think that anger is just fear in disguise. It doesn’t matter what it is – fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of feeling small – fear can lead a person down a very dark path.
I know that in this particular case, my anger was rooted in my fear of failure. When the evidence that the group in question had acted in bad faith became too much to ignore, I found myself afraid to admit that I had been led astray.
I didn’t want to admit that to my partners, friends, and supporters. My anger was simply a primal reaction to an unfortunate situation. By getting angry, I could somehow shift blame from myself and avoid the shame of admitting failure.
This realization hit me hard, and I harnessed the anger I was feeling to identify and conquer the fears that were driving me. Everyone makes mistakes, and all of us are duped from time to time.
I simply needed to address the situation head-on and accept responsibility for the outcome.
Use it to fuel your creativity and resolve
Of course, the act of recognizing the underlying cause of your anger does not absolve the actions of the guilty party. Instead, this recognition merely robs anger of the power it holds over you and your actions.
Anger, when properly focused, can be a very powerful motivator. It can help reinforce your resolve, help you to overcome obstacles, and build grit.
My advice to fellow entrepreneurs, and everyone for that matter is to transform your anger into something positive and creative. In my case, I found that my anger over the situation pushed me to find a creative solution to the situation at hand.
Use it to rally others to your cause
Anger is a universal emotion, and as such can draw others to support your cause. In my particular situation, my advisors and investors were just as angry as I was.
Rather than simply stew on the situation, we rallied together and put our considerable resources to work solving our problem. The anger we felt united us and gave us a common goal; undo the damage done by those who wronged us.
It wasn’t about revenge; it was about moving forward as a team. Given the circumstances, I felt that this act of coalescing around a common goal created a ray of light in an otherwise dark situation.
It’s okay to get angry; in fact, it’s a central part of the human experience. However, if left unchecked, anger can be self-destructive. The things that you think might make you feel better can easily backfire and make matters worse.
Instead, it’s important (for entrepreneurs in particular) to find ways to use your anger to your advantage. Whether it’s conquering the fears that give way to rage or channeling it into a creative endeavor, you can find ways to rob anger of its destructive power and transform it into a powerful ally.