How 14 Years of Depression Prepared Me for Business
As a youth I had loving parents, respectable school results, and a supportive network of friends. To the outsider, there was no way to tell that I was going through one of the most excruciating emotions that a human can experience. For 14 years, I battled with chronic depression. My story today is how depression […]
Ben Lai

As a youth I had loving parents, respectable school results, and a supportive network of friends. To the outsider, there was no way to tell that I was going through one of the most excruciating emotions that a human can experience. For 14 years, I battled with chronic depression. My story today is how depression prepared me for business.

I personally hold the belief that nothing happens by accident. The “school of hard knocks” shaped my character and taught me invaluable life lessons. Since my full recovery, I have made it my mission to share my experiences so that others may profit (sometimes literally!). Today, I trust that this post will inject hope in your career aspirations and encourage you to press on in the face of opposition.

How Depression Prepared Me for Business #1: Suffering is an opportunity to grow

Suffering is a universal human experience. It quickly became apparent during my dark years that some people do everything they can to avoid it, while others accept and embrace it. The latter search for lessons to be learned, and proactively change themselves to adapt. The former might find temporary relief in avoidance, but sacrifice a lifetime of opportunity as its price.

How do you handle challenges, difficult situations, and suffering in your career? When you have a personal conflict, do you confront (in a respectful and pleasant way, of course!) the individual, or do you avoid them? When you have a sales target that feels out of reach, do you complain, or do you strategise? How you handle these situations will ultimately determine whether you grow from the experience, or suffer in vain!

How Depression Prepared Me for Business #2: You only really fail if you quit

During the 14 years of depression, I frequently had thoughts of ending my own life. There didn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel, silver lining to my cloud, or any other cliché that my friends could well-meaningly share with me. I was fortunate enough to have just enough sense that you can’t use a permanent solution to solve a temporary problem, and so I never attempted to fulfil those thoughts.

We live in a society that has a “shopping cart” mentality to life. If you’re not satisfied within the first 30 days, simply return it for a full refund! All too often I see people giving up on long-term goals for short-term difficulties. We settle for “okay” and status quo at the price of our life dreams (usually to avoid the suffering of progress!). Don’t let this be you – if you have a compelling vision for your future, don’t give up at the sight of mere obstacles and discomfort!

How Depression Prepared Me for Business #3: Inferiority is only in the mind

At the end of the 14 years, I discovered the root cause of my condition – I was perpetuating negative self-talk, which drove my self-esteem deep into the ground. At the realisation of the harm I was doing to myself, I slowly re-calibrated my thoughts by choosing to reframe them. I challenged the negative thoughts, and found them lacking substance. With negativity weeded from my mind, I was free to discover my true abilities and self.

We all have self-doubt from time-to-time. We think to ourselves “I don’t have the experience,” “I’m just a low-level employee,” or “They’re probably busy, I’d better not bother them.” I encourage you to challenge these thoughts by asking yourself “Who told you this?” “How do you know?” “Have you actually tried?” Don’t allow assumptions and self-limiting beliefs to hold you back – it’s all in the mind!

Conclusion

To feel pain is to be human. It deepens our character and appreciation for life, but only if we embrace it and learn from it. Your dreams will only die if you give up striving for them. Finally, we must remember that if we challenge the way we think about ourselves, we can discover what we’re really capable of. My sincere hope is that you have found encouragement in these words, and that out of my past suffering your better future will grow.

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