Five Business Lessons I Learned from Surviving a Natural Disaster

Water. So beautiful and relaxing.

Personally, I can think of nothing better than overlooking the ocean, standing on my balcony while the waves come crashing ashore. That’s paradise for me.

Back in 2004, that’s precisely where I was—paradise. To be more precise, it was a small lazy town called Khao Lak, just a few hours north of the resort town of Phuket, Thailand. My wife and I had gone there to celebrate Xmas and we weren’t disappointed. Emerald green waters. Clear blue sky. Exotic fish. Everything we wanted.

That all changed on Dec. 26th. We awoke to another lovely day, had our breakfast and headed down to the beach. Then, by pure luck, instead of heading down the beach, my wife asked to go back to our cabin because she didn’t feel well.

Five minutes later, we found ourselves in the fight of our lives as the tsunami that devastated South East Asia rolled across our sleepy town, destroying everything in its path. Surreal to begin with, it then all became too real a minute later. The support beams of our cabin contorted under the incredible pressure emitting a blood-curdling sound like the ones you hear in horror movies. Except this wasn’t a movie, it was real life. Our cabin started shaking uncontrollably, and then, darkness. Thankfully, it was for just a few seconds, but under the water, I truly thought I wasn’t going to make it.

It was for just a few seconds under the water, but I truly thought I wasn’t going to make it.

And yet, we’re both still here, alive and kicking, only suffering a few minor cuts between the two of us. We lost pretty much everything we had. Our clothes, shoes, Xmas presents, suitcases, the lot. But we had each other and that was all that mattered.

Some of my friends asked me if we would get therapy. “No,” was my answer. We survived. We were some of the lucky ones.

Going through this ordeal taught me a lot about myself and life and I have since used what I learned that day to grow my businesses. Here are five lessons I learned.

  1. The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry—No matter how hard you plan, things inevitably go wrong. That’s just the way it goes. And that’s what happened that day. When it comes to business, rather than think of a best-case scenario, it’s prudent to think of everything that could go wrong with your plan and then take actions to prevent them from happening. It still won’t be perfect, but you’ll save yourself a whole lot of sleepless night if you do prepare.
  2. Do not panic—This is the worst thing you can do in a natural disaster. Every second you spend panicking is a second you could be using to find a solution. The same goes for business. Problems come up on a daily basis, don’t take any rash action and instead analyze the situation, diagnose the situation and then take action. Too many entrepreneurs jump to the third step. It could cost them.
  3. Things are just things—It may suck, but there are far worse things than bankruptcy. Losing all our stuff was inconvenient, yes, but stuff you can replace. What’s really important in life are our friends and family. In business, it’s important to remember to show your appreciation to your customers, especially the most loyal ones. Money comes and goes, but if you lose a client, especially an important one, it can really hurt your business.
  4. People are people—In the aftermath of the tsunami, people’s true character came out. There were the panickers, the lunatics, the selfish, the indifferent, and the helpful. In business, when bad things happen, you’ll see just what people are made of. You never know who is who until it happens. Sometimes the weakest people are the strongest when their backs are against the wall.
  5. Gratitude—My mentor, the late Jim Rohn, used to say, “Learn to be happy with what you have while you pursue all that you want.” If there’s one thing I think about daily since the wave, it’s how grateful I am to be alive. Regardless of whether you are struggling in your business or not, there is no denying what a wonderful time it is to be alive. We’ve got incredible platforms to share our knowledge on, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. We are blessed with knowledge at our fingertips. Stop every now and then and take it all in. With that in mind, it’s much easier to handle any problem that comes our way.

Zig Ziglar is famous for saying:

“Learn how to turn frustration into fascination.”

Precisely. The worst day of my life, one that almost cost me and my wife our lives, has become the foundation upon which we do everything.

I guess what they say is true: everything does happen for a reason.

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