Avoiding Your Charlie Sheen Moment

Last Updated Jun 17, 2011 7:22 PM EDT

What do you do when you're on the verge of a meltdown at work? You know the feeling: The adrenaline floods your nervous system, and you feel as if you could -- and might -- put your fist through a wall.

I think, as business owners, we're more susceptible to these fits of rage than most. After all, your business is personal. Everything from how your staff answers the phone to the quality of your product to the functionality of your website is a reflection of who you are, so when an employee does something that jeopardizes your business, it can be hard not to take it personally.

Managing emotions is something Grieg Clark, the founder of College Pro Painters, knows all about. I interviewed Clark shortly after he sold the student painting company he'd grown to 500 franchisees and asked him what he would have done differently if he could do it all over again. He said he wished he had not "ramped up so high on the highs and so low on the lows."

So next time you feel like having a Sheen-like temper tantrum, try one of these antidotes for the emotional highs and lows of company building:

1. Repeat this mantra
"It's never as good as it feels on the best days and never as bad as it seems on the worst." This is the mantra I learned from Clark, and one that I repeat when I need to moderate my mood swings. Entrepreneurship has a way of amplifying events, which can lead to a magnified reaction -- whether good or bad -- to things that happen.

2. Take a walk
Instead of slamming your fist on your desk, move around to use the energy your body is producing as a natural reaction to stress. I have a couple of routes I walk near my office building. Going for a walk releases the energy that comes with bad news. I try not to go back to the office until I feel as though the adrenaline has left my system -- that means the more frustrating the incident, the further I walk. Twice in the 11 years that I ran my last company, I actually walked all eight and a half miles home.

3. Help someone
It's said that the best way to stop feeling sorry for yourself is to help someone else. If you find yourself at an emotional ebb with your business, lend $25 to an entrepreneur in the developing world through kiva.org, which gives you the opportunity to read the stories of fledgling business owners and select one that resonates with you. Once you have picked an entrepreneur to back, you can lend as little as $25 to help him or her get a business off the ground. Seeing how little some people have to work with to get a business started can be a good reminder of how lucky you are.

4. Keep a gratitude journal
I know it sounds corny, but I actually keep a journal of things I'm grateful for. And like all things, there's an iPhone app for that ("The Gratitude Journal"). Jotting down a few things daily is a good way for me to keep business problems in perspective. The moment something bad happens and you feel yourself losing control, force yourself to write a list of things you're grateful for. You'll be amazed at how the process of writing can act as a balm for your flaring temper.

5. Recruit a ranting board
Consider finding someone outside of your company who can act as a sounding - or ranting - board. Someone you can simply complain to without being judged. A lot of business owners use their spouse as their default ranting board, but your spouse will tire of being the outlet for your toxicity. I recommend finding a business mentor or friend you can call on short notice for a good old-fashioned rant with no strings attached.

What do you do when you feel as though you're heading for a Charlie Sheen moment?

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John Warrillow is the author of Built To Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You.
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  • John Warrillow

    John Warrillow is the author of Built to Sell: Turn Your Business into One You Can Sell. He has started and exited four companies. Most recently, he transformed Warrillow & Co. from a boutique consultancy into a recurring revenue model subscription business, which was acquired by The Corporate Executive Board. Watch this video to hear John's thoughts on starting and growing a business you can sell.

    John and his book "Built to Sell" have been featured in CNN, MSNBC, Time magazine and ABC News. John was recognized by BtoB Magazine's "Who's Who" list as one of America's most influential business-to-business marketers.

    John now divides his time between homes in Toronto, Canada, and Aix-en-Provence, France. He is a husband and father of two rambunctious boys.