Do You Want To Live A Happier, More Productive Life? Practice Gratitude.

The article was contributed to by Brian Scudamore.

In 2015, I was in the running for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. It was one of the biggest professional goals I’ve ever had. 

I thought I had a fighting chance; I’d built my business from one truck to four brands with hundreds of franchises across North America. Then I saw that the judging panel included an ex-colleague who nearly ran my business into the ground. I suddenly believed there was no way I was going to win. It was years after the fact, but we’d never resolved our issues and I figured this person must still be angry with me. I had let my own anger hold me back for too long; it had affected my relationships, my ability to focus, and my connection to my business. I wasn’t sure where we stood. Look past conflict and find gratitude in every moment. But I decided to put the negativity aside and focus instead on what the experience taught me. This is how I learned how to turn my anger into a positive mindset — and even find gratitude along the way.

Seek To Understand: Letting go of anger is never easy. It’s even harder to empathize with the person you’re mad at. But the first step to moving on is trying to understand why the situation happened in the first place. I hired this person as our new COO when our company was going through a period of hyper-growth. In fact, we were scaling too quickly and I needed a second-in-command to keep up. On paper, she was a perfect fit. But under our shared leadership, the business didn’t thrive — we nearly went bankrupt. At first, I was blinded by resentment and it almost felt like she was trying to take us down. I couldn’t see the bigger picture: our personalities were so different that we had always been doomed to fail. What I know now is that she didn’t understand the quirkiness entrepreneurs tend to have. It took time and distance, but eventually I began to look at her differently: not as someone who screwed me over, but as someone who was thrown into an unfamiliar situation with a co-leader who had a different approach. We didn’t complement each other’s strengths and it was a learning experience for both of us.

Realize What You’re Responsible For: Entrepreneurs can be proud — to a fault. When things go wrong, it’s easy to play the blame game and let anger take control. But to move on, you have to look in the mirror and ask yourself what you did wrong, too. In the case of our COO, I was blaming everything on her and refusing to acknowledge my own shortcomings. She was successful before (and has been wildly successful since) coming to our company, so it wasn’t fair to fault her ability to lead a business. I was the one who lead her into a company that, deep down, I knew wasn’t right for her. I was dazzled by her pedigree and overlooked how she would fit with our company culture. When I finally accepted my role in our fallout, I was able to make peace with it.

Look Ahead — But Don’t Forget: When something goes so sideways, it’s easy to take it personally and hold a grudge. But holding on to negativity like that doesn’t feel good and there’s only one way to let it go: forgiveness. I once heard a story about an entrepreneur whose business partner cheated him out of $82K. After years of being angry, he realized that sometimes people make bad choices and it has nothing to do with you. He called his old partner, not to ask for his money back or beg for an explanation, but simply to say, “I forgive you.” He freed himself from his anger and that was worth so much more than any dollar value. When bad things happen, remind yourself that no one is setting out to destroy you. I believe that people are inherently good but sometimes, they make mistakes. Staying angry isn’t going to solve anything, but forgiving them and showing compassion will set you both free. So let go of the anger, but never forget what the experience taught you.

Lean Into Gratitude: Where focus goes, energy flows. Spending all your time dwelling on the negative will only give power to your resentment. When you focus on the positive, you invite happiness back into your life. It’s tough at first but practicing gratitude can literally rewire your brain to boost your happiness.. I spent a lot of time replaying what happened with our COO and asking myself “what if” questions: what if I had never hired her? What if I hadn’t gone away on vacation? What if I’d given her another chance? I was in a negativity loop, running in circles and unable to climb out of the downward spiral. But then I started to think about all the good things that happened as a result: we streamlined our hiring processes, I learned to let go of control, and we found our current COO Erik Church. I began to appreciate our conflict as the catalyst to becoming a bigger and better company. Sure enough, I ended up winning Entrepreneur of the Year — and it couldn’t have happened without my ex-COO’s vote of approval. I was already well on my way to putting our conflict behind me, and that was the final push across the finish line. It proved to me that we were both finally ready to move on. Gratitude has changed my entire life. Tony Robbins sums it up perfectly: “Gratitude is the antidote to the things that mess us up. You can’t be angry and grateful simultaneously. You can’t be fearful and grateful simultaneously. So, gratitude is the solution to both anger and fear.”