There I was, scrolling through Facebook when I came across a post about whether or not the term ‘boss mum’ was appropriate or acceptable to mothers who run their own businesses with staff. It was a simple question that you might expect would have ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers depending on the perspective of each reader. However, as I read through the long thread of comments, I noted that the simple phrase ‘boss mum’ enraged, infuriated, angered and royally riled a number of women to the point at which I could literally feel their fury burning through my computer screen. For some people in the thread, those two simple words put together, was enough to trigger untempered rage. Yet to others it was nothing more than two meaningless words from the English language placed next to each other to state a fact. It was truly fascinating to read all of the different opinions and viewpoints and to see in action just how many people can be so spectacularly triggered by what may appear as a seemingly meaningless event.
I watched on from my digitally imposed distance, as these differences of opinions fueled by an invisible and intangible array of ‘triggers,’ created vast divides between people who had up until that point had been entrepreneurial friends and allies.
In the 14 years that I’ve been in business, I have quite literally watched people destroy their entire careers by the way that they have responded to seemingly meaningless events (triggers). Events that although may have appeared totally unremarkable to many, somehow triggered something from the darkness of the most unknown parts of their being and turned them into a less desirable version of themselves – to the demise of everything they had built.
That very night, I’d experienced a ‘trigger’ of my own too (which I’ll share shortly), and so it really got me thinking about triggers in business and life. It got me thinking about how important it is to have the self-awareness to notice what triggers us in a negative way and what triggers us positively so that we can treat our trigger responses more consciously and responsibly. After all, who we are showing up as in the business space does have a direct influence, impact and consequence on our success or failure as entrepreneurs.
I don’t often share a lot about my personal life and I have especially never been open about the things that bring out the less desirable version of me. I come from a very traditional, tough-butt gypsy background where self-pity is frowned upon and any hint of emotion is considered pathetic and a distasteful, embarrassing weakness.
- “You look like a crocodile when you cry”
- “Pull your pants up and get over it”
- “Have a cup of concrete and harden up will you”
These were all familiar statements in my family and regular ‘advice’ that I received in the face of any personal despair growing up.
As a result, I learned through my life to cope with tough times by distracting myself from my feelings by working harder, putting on a brave face and making out that everything in my world is absolutely perfect. I learned how to master the act of ‘I’ve totally got this’ to hide any emotional pain I was in; and perfected constructing the outward illusion that I’m nothing less than the epitome of an unshakeable success. It’s been a lifelong personal challenge of mine to learn how to not feel shame about having emotions when it’s been so instilled in me to be ‘big, tough and strong’.
None more so than the onset of postnatal depression that came when my daughter was born in 2016, and on top of that, the development of C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) following a prolonged period of horrific abuse I experienced at the hands of an obsessed ex-student, who to this day remains most unwelcomely obsessed with me.
Triggers can come from events, things, people, words, sounds, smells, anything that challenges our sense of personal control, safety or feelings of significance. These ‘triggers’ ignite activity in our amygdala, which plays a big role in processing our emotions, which in turn then activates our fight or flight response. For those who suffer with conditions like PTSD, these triggers go a step further by unexpectedly bringing forth an intense experience of terrifying emotions and thoughts, on top of a putrid soup of biological and physiological stress. Without going into details as to why, one of my triggers is ‘blue lights and sirens’ outside my house. The night before I read this ‘boss mum’ Facebook thread, I was tucked up in bed in my quiet little Australian outback country town house, with my daughter asleep in the room next to me, and my Police Officer husband out on duty.
And then it came.
One of my triggers.
Blue lights and sirens came screaming up right outside my bedroom window practically deafening me with the wailing, the blue and red lights blinding me as they flashed through the cracks of my blinds; the wheels braked so hard that they screeched as they pulled up on my driveway.
I ran to the window still dazed from being awakened so suddenly to see if they really were in my driveway, or if I was just having a bad dream.
So overstimulated by sounds, sights and fear, I stood at the window and didn’t even notice that I was unclothed.
3 police patrol cars had screeched around the front of my house with their lights flashing, and SEVEN police officers poured out of them with search-and-rescue scale torches in their hands. I looked into the night outside as if I wasn’t even there – their fluorescent vests flashing back even more light into my squinting eyes as the emergency lights on the police cars reflected off of them. They all ran up my driveway and pounded on my door. I couldn’t breathe. I had so many terrifying thoughts running through my head.
For those who don’t know, my husband is a Police Officer – and every Police family will tell you that every single time your officer goes to work, you pray that they come home safe. You are always in fear of having their colleagues knock on your door in the middle of the night with some horrible news.
As I stood at my window, my head felt like it had been injected with liquid ice, my legs shook under my weight, my chest tightened so much that I felt like I was being strangled; and I felt like I was falling down a black tunnel with red and blue flashing lights blinding me as I dropped into a spiraling vortex of darkness. Suddenly, my unborn baby kicked inside of me, bringing me back to some form of consciousness. It was then that I realized my dogs were in such a barking frenzy that they sounded like they were rabid.
I blinked, trying to make sense of what was going on, then heard faintly behind the roaring of my dogs that the police were still pounding on my door, shouting my name. I somehow got to the front door, finding my toddler’s bath towel on the way to hold in front of myself.
“Are you ok Sarah?” the first officer yelled over my snarling dogs, shining a torch through the crim-door mesh and into my eyes.
“Sarah are you alright? Is everything ok?” he pressed again with urgency in his voice.
I literally couldn’t speak. I had no idea what was going on. Where was my husband? Is he ok? Is there a bad guy in my house? Is that putrid stalker here? What’s happening? But nothing came out.
I managed to finally suck in a breath of air “My husband, is he ok?”
The officer turned his head to the radio on his vest and began talking into it. Muffled and indiscernible sounds came back and forth out of it for what felt like an eternity as I struggled to remind myself to breathe.
“He’s ok Sarah,” he said in the reassuring and definite way that only a police officer can.
It turns out that somebody had dialed 000 (the Australian emergency services) and given my address by accident. They had meant to give a neighbor’s address.
I live in a very small country town where the Police ARE my family, we all know where each other lives, our kids play together, we share meals with each other, go camping together and support each other through the challenging lifestyle of being Police families. So when the address given in the 000 call went through, every patrol car in my town knew instantly that it was my house and were running up my driveway within SECONDS to check on my welfare. It was nothing more than the accidental wrong address by a neighbors (they were fine too by the way).
Yet, my inner experience was magnitudinal for something that was ultimately ‘nothing to get worked up about.’ But that’s because my inner fears were triggered – and this happens at all kinds of levels for all of us every single day.
We see it in business constantly when complete strangers begin an outraged argument online over a ‘meaningless’ tweet; when a bill comes in that we can’t afford; when a crazed competitor masquerades as a client to leave a dreadful fake review to sabotage our reputation.
It’s transpiring when we find ourselves stewing like a big poop casserole when somebody has copied our work; or when a heartless keyboard warrior says something inaccurate or mean about us and we want to charge in and shove a sh*t sandwich right up their hoo-hah.
As such, we certainly don’t need to suffer from a condition like PTSD or an insufferable anxiety disorder to be triggered emotionally, to feel intimidated, defensive, threatened or experience dread, fear, worry or hurt in our everyday lives as entrepreneurs.
NOBODY – no human being on earth – is immune from feeling emotions of some kind at some point in their lives.
We are all emotional beings and each of us have ‘triggers’ that can be sparked by an array of external influences.
For some, the consequences of a trigger being sparked are nothing more than a fleeting second of an increased heart rate or the desire to leave an inappropriate (but equally satisfying) meme for the ‘offender’ to ‘enjoy’.
For others, a trigger causes nothing more than a momentary dent to the ego. For some unlucky ones, a trigger can bring on a genuine experience of pending life-threatening doom.
The way we have been brought up, the subconscious programming we have gone through combined with the punishment and rewards of varying lived experiences, all go on to influence what triggers us and to what extent at the most subconscious and primal levels.
It’s not our fault. It’s just nature and nurture. But it IS important that we find ways of managing our responses to these triggers if we are to be successful in business and have more comfortable lives in general.
Success is not eliminating or ignoring our emotions. It is not in how ‘tough’ we are or whether we stand up and fight against whatever or whoever triggered us.
Success is in what results we achieve whilst still being a good person in SPITE of these triggers and emotions happening.
We cannot stop our triggers getting hammered by the largely uncontrollable external environment that surrounds us.
We cannot halt the world and everything and everyone in it. We cannot redesign the human nature of emotional experience. But we can find the courage to go on doing what we are doing (or trying to do), being who we are and helping the world be a better place despite them.
- Courage is not the absence of fear or emotion.
- Courage is striving forward despite feeling fear and emotion.
- Courage – and therefore success – is ONLY possible BECAUSE fear and emotion exist in us.
So if you get triggered easily, or at all.
If you feel fear, anger or emotion at the thought of what you need to do in business; your opportunities to truly be courageous are even higher.
Recognize what your triggers are.
Find healthy ways to live in harmony with them, rather than fight them, who whoever caused them.
The important thing is to remember when it comes to managing triggers in business, is who we are being is more important than what we’re doing.
Feeling emotions is a completely normal part of being a human, and not something that we can ever eradicate – but which we must learn how to embrace and express In a way that is healthy for us and not intrusive to the lives of others.
Finally, when we see other people reacting with anger, fear, frustration, hatred or displeasure; it is also our responsibility to understand that they too may have been triggered in some way and are suffering the conscious or subconscious results of a ‘trigger’ that they haven’t yet learned how to manage.
And as such, we should just all be a little kinder to one another – especially in business where life is already tough enough at times.
We never truly know what’s going on inside the world of our fellow human beings; so let’s not pull another trigger at them, when they already have one pointed at themselves.
Have a little think today about the following:
What are your triggers?
How do you know you’ve been triggered?
Why do those things trigger you? What kind of underlying fear is behind the trigger?
How do you want to show up in the world as an entrepreneur? / What kind of person do you wish to be seen as?
As such, what must you remind yourself to do, and NOT do, when you get triggered?
What will you do differently next time you get triggered?
Sarah Cordiner holds the record for being the youngest University “Executive Director & Head of Campus” in Australian history; a university ranked number 1 in Australia at the time of her leadership, and is one of the most remote university campuses in the world. With over 14 years in business in the education industry, Sarah currently has over 180,000 students from 181 countries enrolled in her own online courses in her own global education company. @Sarah_Cordiner