“We need to talk,” my Controller said. A controller never does that when it’s good news.

He had knocked on the doorjam and waited by my open office door for me to give a signal. When he spoke I felt a rush of dread wash over me. A tangible feeling of all the times we’d almost run out of cash, cresting over me in a wave of heat and adrenaline. My heart beat in my ears. My face flushed.

In the wave were all the people who were counting on us, our investors and employees. In it were all my secret doubts as to my own sufficiency in managing the business. My core belief in the imperativeness of saving every penny, juxtaposed with the burn rate we’d been keeping up at the instruction of the board. I couldn’t believe how much of a failure I was that I had let it get to this point. I knew better. And now everyone would know how misplaced their faith was in us.

Whoa, it occurred to me as I considered the wave. That’s intense. And a bit over the top. Does this happen to me every time he wants to talk?

And then as quick as it came, it was over. Upon seeing the reaction clearly for what it was, a skill I’d been cultivating through meditation for about 6 months at the time, the wave dissipated on its own.

I invited him in, and we discussed how we didn’t have enough cash. And we made the decisions we had to make.

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2 years ago

[…] Whether conscious or not, most people spend most of their lives managing these sensations, thinking they’re operating within an external world. Two of the biggest triggers for people are change and uncertainty, which our mid- and post-COVID world has in spades. The world might trigger an emotion like dread (say your Controller says to you: “we need to talk”), which if unnoticed can literally color your entire reaction to the situation, and drive suboptimal outcomes that you look back on with regret. Not that I know anything about that. […]

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