So I had a minor crisis on Tuesday that I wanted to share for two reasons. One, I thought that it might help someone else who finds themselves in a similar situation. And two, I hope that talking it out will make me feel better about it!
I manage the accounting for a business that my wife runs. Nothing earth shattering, just a few expenses a month, monthly income and one contractor. So, rather than update the financials on a monthly basis, I usually wait until the end of the year and then just batch process the whole thing. It usually takes me about a week.
Well, as anyone who has ever had employees or contractors working for them knows, you have to give out 1099s and W-2s by January 31st. So I sat down Tuesday to file those forms only to realize that my entire Quickbooks file, over 6 years of work, had been deleted! I spent a good hour investigating what happened and I’m still not sure. I had everything saved in Dropbox and I had that folder shared across multiple devices. The best I can figure is someone (possibly myself, possibly a child on a computer) deleted the files and then when the folder synced – BOOM – files gone.
File recovery for Dropbox is only for the last thirty days and it looks like these files were deleted over two months ago. So what did I do?
I panicked! What did you think I would do? My first reaction was to hyperventilate and think about how I was going to have to recreate years of records in just 45 days (corporations have to files taxes by March 15th, not April 15th). I also had no idea how I was going to be able to file the 1099 I needed to file by January 31st – in TWO days. Apocalyptic visions swirled through my mind and I started to feel light headed and dizzy.
Then I stopped pacing, took a deep breath and sat down. Freaking out wasn’t going to get me anywhere. If I continued to panic I was either going to waste a lot of time or possibly make things even worse. Or both.
Once I was able to calm down I remembered that I have an old laptop (as we all do these days) gathering dust in a downstairs drawer. It just so happens that this laptop is the one that I used to use to complete all of the Quickbooks work. So I turned off the internet in my house (so the Dropbox wouldn’t start syncing once I turned it on), powered up the laptop and hoped for the best.
And there it was! The base file that I needed, the one that had all of the company information that I had spent so much time setting up and getting just right. Sure, it’s a few years out of date, but I’ll take that over being non-existent!
So what’s the lesson here?
I know it is a cliche to say now, but you truly haven’t failed until you stop trying. History is full of stories of people who have failed over and over again, only to finally succeed through perseverance, patience and, occasionally, luck.
Enter the Stoics
I’m also reminded of the Stoic concept of the dichotomy of control. In a nutshell, the Stoics say that you should really only concern yourself with the things that are under your control. Simple, right? Well, yes. Simple, but not always easy. The key to getting it right is realizing that there is very little that is actually under your control.
In my situation, I had no control over where those missing files were, the fact that they had been deleted too long ago to be recovered, or the fact that the 1099s are due in two days.
So what did I have control over?
My actions. And my reactions. I could remain calm. I could explore my options. I could assess the situation, seeing it for what it was, not what I wanted it to be, and then make a plan to move forward. And that’s what I did. Eventually.
We are constantly being tested in life and by life. So what do you do? Do you throw your hands up in the air and rant and rave about how it’s not fair? Or do you hunker down and get to the business of being a human being in this world? Something you don’t like has happened to you. So what? You can’t undo what happened. There are no mulligans in life. But what you can do is accept that it has happened and then move on. Take the next step, complete your next action.
I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but it could have been worse. And for a time, it felt like it was. But that wasn’t reality. That was my overactive imagination blowing things completely out of proportion. So, if you find yourself in the midst of a raging storm, with the wind and rain all around, look for that calm center within you and say: what next? And then do that. And the next thing. The only way through is forward.