March 22 2019 06:00 AM

When things seem tough, breathe deep and put things back into perspective.

I’m as serious about my business as just about anybody. I’ve gone through my share of sleepless nights, worry, stress and strain. I’ve come home grouchy and worse. I even hit deep depression during the Great Recession.

And boy, did we go through the wringer in the Great Recession. We’d lost three-quarters of our construction business and workforce and in 2013 had to basically start all over again. Boy, did I think I’d seen and experienced it all. I was wrong.

I’d bet just about any landscaper reading this column has, at one time or another, gone through much of the same. We care about our companies, we care about our futures, and things can really get to you when business gets rough or things go wrong.

So, today I’m here to tell you, “Lighten up! It’s just business.” Almost any problem in business can eventually be overcome with enough diligence and thought. A personal experience really shocked me into proper perspective, and it’s how I overcame the over-worry syndrome.

Four years back our family was invited to a huge wedding in India for a friend of my son’s from college. He’d planned an enormous affair with a two-week tour of India all wrapped up with a wedding with elephants and camels and castles.

We began our tour with a visit to the Taj Mahal.

Indeed, that is quite a site and nearly a must-see for landscapers and architects. After the Taj, we went shopping for wedding attire. My daughter found what she was looking for and headed down the street with a friend to find a tailor.

Not more than five minutes after she left, a young man came running back into the store yelling, “Your daughter’s been hit! Your daughter’s been hit!” My son and I ran down the street to find Katie splayed on the curb. A motorcycle had hit her at high speed. She’d been thrown an unknown distance and suffered blunt trauma to her head in multiple areas. She was motionless, unconscious, and her breathing was shallow.

No police or ambulances were to be found. We ended up riding a three wheeled “tuk-tuk” with Katie laying on Jon’s lap and me hanging from the basket on the outside. We made our way over bumpy cobblestone streets to a hospital. Seventy long minutes passed before we got Katie to the emergency room. It was a close call as her lungs had filled with blood.

Surgeons performed brain surgery three hours later to stop cranial bleeding and to compensate for swelling. The doctors said, “It was in God’s hands.”

My daughter remained in a coma in the ICU for three days before finally coming to. For the next 24 days, we stayed with Katie 24/7. She began speaking in very short sentences after a week, and bit by bit, her brain rebooted back up. But she couldn’t retain memory from one day to the next and her behavior was erratic as happens with brain injuries.

After nearly a month in India, Katie was well enough to fly home accompanied by two doctors and immediately admitted to UCLA Medical Center. She stayed with my wife and me during two months of intense rehab. She later returned home and began working part time and eventually full time.

Remarkably, if you met my daughter today you’d sense no indication of such a devastating injury. Our family has been blessed beyond any expectation and humbled to have a second chance with our daughter.

Business stress? So, what about it? Business is nothing compared to holding a dying daughter in one’s arms. No business stress approaches the agonizing wait of a family member in a coma or the true tortured strangeness of brain injury recovery.

In this profound experience we were given two gifts: First, our daughter’s life was restored. And second, profound perspective. Whereas previously business so consumed me, so ate me up, here I learned in my gut what really matters.

Remember, business is just business. When things seem tough, breathe deep and put things back into perspective. Don’t let the tough, maddening days get to you. Truly, it’s not life or death, so embrace the challenges that come and tackle them without the baggage of stress and worry.

Gary Horton, MBA, is CEO of Landscape Development Inc., a green industry leader for over 35 years with offices throughout California and Nevada. He can be reached at