Feeling Stuck? A Personal Story of Overcoming Challenges

by James Bode James Bode | May 31, 2024

Let me begin by saying that I consider myself an optimistic person. This doesn’t mean my life has been easy; I have had my share of challenges. But overall, I believe I have a positive outlook on life. 

I’d say that despite the challenges I’ve faced, I’ve maintained a sense of confidence, and I would say I have been fairly successful in my life. So why write a piece about losing my mojo? 

Well, because it’s something that happens to all of us. We all lose our mojo sometimes. We all go through periods in our lives where things don’t look up. I did. And then what do we do? What did I do?


How 3 Important Life Events Shaped My Journey

I’d like to share with you a real-life story about losing my mojo; when I wasn’t feeling quite as confident, and how I got through it. 

Perhaps it will inspire you to share your story, or to see a way out of wherever you find yourself, if you are in that kind of moment in your life.


Event #1: Coping with a Child's Type I Diabetes Diagnosis

There was a time, only a few years ago, when a series of events threw me off for a while. 

It started a year or two before the pandemic, when my wife, Crista, and I found out that our youngest child (who was almost five years old at the time) had Type I Diabetes. Her diagnosis was a huge life event for our entire family, one that turned our lives upside down. 

Shortly thereafter, my father passed away, which impacted my life significantly.

 Right after that, our lives changed again with COVID, a scenario for which our business had never prepared for (as I am sure most businesses hadn’t). 

All three of these events were completely unanticipated, and the way they happened in a quick 1-2-3 knocked me off my feet, you could say, for a while.

I remember the exact moment when I found out about Anna’s diagnosis: Type I Diabetes. Ben and I were in a conference room at the office in conversation with a consultant discussing strategies to help us grow our business. We were talking about innovative ways to bring in new clients, to achieve growth, and to make progress in this amazing business we had launched together in 2013.

That’s when I got the call. I went from a conversation where I was thinking about growing the business, to hearing about our daughter’s diagnosis. In a single moment, it called me to shift my entire focus to the needs of my family. 

At the time no one knew for how long things were going to be this way. What would it be like to have a young child diagnosed with diabetes? Would it be short-term or long-term, and how would our family adjust to the impact? We had no idea what we were getting into. There was a lot of uncertainty.

In our family, when we look at photos — on our phones or at home — we are all able to tell our life in pictures as “before the diagnosis” and “after the diagnosis” — so big was its impact in all our lives. 

As events like this typically do, Anna’s diagnosis forced me to refocus my time, energies, and desires about where I wanted to be in my life. It required me to reprioritize what I did (which I did), and I am grateful for the ways it changed our lives because it reminded me of what’s truly important.


Event #2: The Impact of Losing a Parent

Eventually though, I settled back into some sort of rhythm. Life was different, but it was predictable again. I thought to myself, “I’ve got this, I can do this, let’s go.” 

That’s when I felt like I was punched in the face — again. It came out of nowhere. 

A year and a half after Anna’s diagnosis, my dad passed away. His health issues had started to worsen in 2019, but he deteriorated very, very quickly. In early January of 2020 he was diagnosed with bile duct cancer. The doctors gave him nine months to live. He lasted eight months. 

It was so hard for all of us. This was at the height of COVID, when you couldn’t even go into the hospital unless you were critically ill. He had to go in for chemo alone, without my mother, or any of us by his side. We had to do “drive-by” visits at their house because he was immune-compromised. We were “visiting” with each other from across the street, keeping a distance because we didn’t know much about COVID at the time, or how to fight it. 

It was a difficult time, anyway, but going through the loss of my dad during that time, with everything else that was going on felt overwhelming.


Event #3: Adapting a High-Touch Face-to-Face Business to an Online World 

Then came the final punch. 

It had to do with the conversation that Ben and I had in the conference room in 2018, about how we could grow our business. In 2018, we spoke about how we might embrace technology to streamline our business. I remember specifically talking about videoconferencing and how it might work for us (I don’t know if it was Zoom, in particular). At the time, our client base was all over the Boston metro area, stretching into New Hampshire, parts of Florida, and other assorted locations. 

Even in 2018, we knew it wasn’t sustainable for our team to meet all our clients in person. But to meet online? We were financial advisors, and my mindset was traditional. I thought, “Why the heck would anyone want to have a meeting about financial planning and investments over the computer?” 

The financial services business had always been a people business, it had been an “in-person” business. We knew that at the level at which we operate, people wanted to be seen in person. Didn’t they? I couldn’t figure it out.

It wasn’t until after our family had adjusted to Anna’s diagnosis (and I began to feel more secure about our situation) that my mind revisited ideas for scaling the business. This would have been in 2019, and the notion of videoconferencing was becoming a much more appealing option with every commute away from my family.

I was driving a huge amount every day, from home to the office to another office, to client meetings, and back home. I thought, “All this driving is crazy. Instead of me driving up to Salem, New Hampshire several times a week, maybe I could do more from home.” But again, I stopped myself because I really didn't think clients would want that. So, I kept driving.

When COVID hit and everyone was forced to go to online meetings, I’ll admit that we weren't as prepared as we might have been. 

That was the third punch. 

Not only did we have to pivot immediately to meet our clients online (a technology we did embrace very quickly), but we also had to do our first live video stream to our clients to let them know that we were there for them. Along with the rest of our industry we had to reinvent the way we were communicating and meeting with our clients. Would clients receive this change? Was it secure to talk about your finances in this way? Was it going to work? 

The markets were going sideways, and people were really, really scared. This amounted to a huge amount of stress for everyone. 

Managing Anna’s illness, dealing with my dad’s decline, and the sudden need to be back in the business focused 1000% on scared clients in a highly uncertain environment, all the while with three kids doing school from home — it was another level of overload.


Reclaiming My Mojo: The Importance of Self-Care and Support

I can’t say I lost my mojo overnight. It happened over time. 

I know that Ben and I have worked hard to build a great business together, but maintaining the desire to keep building the business got difficult for me during those years. We were trying to figure out, how will we sustain this business? How will we keep what we have built and let our clients know we care? It was draining, and exhausting, even for a normally confident and optimistic person like me. 

When I look back at 2018, 2019, and 2020, holy cow! No wonder someone could lose their mojo. 

In 2018 I gave my entire attention to my family’s health crisis, in 2019 I was focused on my dad’s health, and in 2020 it was surviving COVID — both as a family and making sure our business could make it through. At some point in those three years, while I was giving to everything and everyone outside of myself, I lost my own desire to succeed and my own desire to stay optimistic for me. I fell into a funk.

And then, one day, it changed.


Prioritizing Health & Wellness to Serve Others

The turning point in my downturn was when I realized that my number one priority was to get my own health under control

I had been so distracted with taking care of everyone else that this had slipped away from me. My parents were both pastors and I remember this old song from church that literally ordered what your priorities should be in life, with Jesus first, yourself last, and everyone else in between. 

As a kid, I learned that you put everyone else first. But if you speak to any psychotherapist or psychologist, or even a good teacher, they will tell you, no, you must take care of yourself first before you can be any good to anybody else. Well, I had forgotten about taking care of myself and it showed.

I wish I could tell you that my way out of the funk was a straight line, but it wasn’t.

 My priority has always been my family, but if I wanted to keep looking after them, I really needed to look after myself. I started by looking at my eating habits and exercise. I had to get a handle on my own body. In bits and pieces, these things all came together, and then one day I noticed that my enthusiasm for my work also came back.

I wish I had the ability to see from the beginning that taking care of myself would have been the best way to take care of my family. Crista would certainly have appreciated that. Even though from the outside it may have looked selfless, I think my inability to help myself first delayed how fast I bounced back and could be of help to others. 

Anyone is allowed to lose their mojo, it’s just something that happens. How long you stay down, though, is (probably, partly) under your control.


The Power of Small Changes in Regaining Motivation

I don't know if confidence and optimism are things you can learn. I do think they’re mostly inherited traits. 

If you ask kids who knew me in high school, I don’t think any of them would be surprised that my life has turned out as it did. Growing up, I was always spending extra time in the weight room or on the field, in athletics. I truly believe that one of the gifts that I was given was a drive for success. I have the work ethic that I have from my father, who insisted that me and my siblings do the little things really well. 

I teach this to my kids, too, that doing the extra reps and practices, the little things, adds up to something. I was taught that getting the little things right is going to make the bigger parts of your life even better. Thank goodness that even when I lost my mojo, I didn’t lose that.

What helped me was getting back to the little things, making small changes here and there and doing the extra reps. But what saved me was the support of my tribe: my loved ones, my family, my kids, and my wife, first and foremost. She is the one who has believed in me from day one and agreed to go on this crazy journey. 

Ben, my partner, has always given me the space to figure things out, and he has pushed me when I needed it most. 

And lastly, I am grateful for my own relentless pursuit of doing good for the people around me. If I didn’t want to help others, I wouldn’t have the connections and the community that helped me find my way back to my mojo.


Reconnect, Reflect, and Recharge: Steps to Overcome Feeling Stuck

If you’re feeling stuck, or down, or like you’ve lost your drive, my advice is to think about all the people who helped you get to where you are today, because chances are you didn’t do it alone. 

Find your tribe and lean into their support

Also, remember what it was that got you to a good place in the first place, and do that. You probably worked hard or did something really well, so try doing that again and again. 

But most importantly, if you’re like me and focus on everyone at the expense of yourself, take a break and take care of yourself. You’re not much good to anyone until you’re feeling healthy and strong. Be patient with yourself, and don’t lose your faith — you’ve got this!

James Bode is Managing Partner at Beck Bode, a deliberately different wealth management firm with a unique view on investing, business and life.

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