Mentoring Letter 403: Facing Setbacks
“Breakdowns can create breakthroughs. Things fall apart so things can fall together.” Unknown.
As one who loves his job and comes to life with the opportunity to develop and grow people, this year has had its fair share of setbacks. I have had more courses cancelled or postponed at the last minute than any time in my training career. I have also encountered no shows and even a few ‘don’t come backs’ on day two. At a time when I should be becoming a better and more experienced people developer it has been harder to get people into a training room than ever before. Now for anyone with big goals and a belief that you have something genuinely of value to put on the table, this can be quite disconcerting and in fact, pretty discouraging. Yet nowhere in my reading about the lives of successful people do I find that they were immune to times like this. So why should you and I be? What is probably of more value is to find out how the best have dealt with this and to learn from them.
The reviewer of John Calipari’s book ‘Bounce Back’ made this statement in his introduction to the book.
“If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that nobody goes through life unscathed—no matter how rich, how smart, how talented, or how fortunate they may be. White collar, blue collar, or no collar, there is an undeniable commonality to the raw emotion that strikes people when they are knocked down.”
Setbacks we all have. Overcoming them we don’t all experience. A setback is a single event or specific series of events that impedes your forward progress. It is an unwanted and uninvited interruption in our lives. In a recent Denis Waitley newsletter he reminds us that many times we look at high achievers and assume they had a string of lucky breaks or made it without much effort. Usually the opposite is true, and the so-called superstar had an incredibly rough time before he or she attained any lasting success. Let’s have a look at two such examples:
You may not know the background of a certain laundry worker who earned sixty dollars a week at his job but had the burning desire to be a writer. His wife worked nights, and he spent nights and weekends typing manuscripts to send to publishers and agents. Each one was rejected with a form letter that gave him no assurance that his manuscripts had even been read. I can assure that such letters are not the greatest self-esteem builders. But finally, a warm, more personal rejection letter came in the mail to the laundry worker, stating that although his work was not good enough at this point to warrant publishing, he had promise as a writer and he should keep trying. He forwarded two more manuscripts to the same friendly-yet-rejecting publisher over the next eighteen months, and as before, he struck out with both of them too. Finances got so tight for the young couple that they had to disconnect their telephone to pay for medicine for their baby. Feeling totally discouraged, he threw his latest manuscript into the garbage. His wife, totally committed to his life goals and believing in his talent, took the manuscript out of the trash and sent it back to Doubleday, the publisher who had sent the friendly rejections. The book, titled Carrie, sold over 5 million copies, and the movie became one of the top-grossing films in 1976. The laundry worker, of course, was Stephen King.
According to legend, Thomas Edison made thousands of prototypes of the incandescent light bulb before he finally got it right. And, since the prolific inventor was awarded more than 1,000 patents, it’s easy to imagine him failing on a daily basis in his lab at Menlo Park. In spite of struggling with “failure” throughout his entire working life, Edison never let it get the best of him. All of these “failures,” which are reported to be in the tens of thousands, simply showed him how not to invent something. His resilience gave the world some of the most amazing inventions of the early 20th century, such as the phonograph, the telegraph, and the motion picture.
“It’s hard to imagine what our world would be like if Edison had given up after his first few failures. His inspiring story forces us to look at our own lives – do we have the resilience that we need to overcome our challenges? Or do we let our failures derail our dreams? And what could we accomplish if we had the strength not to give up?” James Mantelow on Mindtools.com
Waitley goes on to say,
“Believe in your ability to turn obstacles into opportunities. Too often people try to storm their obstacles as if they’re forts that need to be taken. It’s better to step back and ask yourself, “Did I cause this obstacle by my own actions or lack of them? Did someone else cause this obstacle? Is this obstacle one that grew out of the natural progression of circumstances?”
Here is some solid advice, something I know I need, on how to deal with these sometimes debilitating and demoralising setbacks:
Firstly, acknowledge it. No one is immune to setbacks. If you have one, recognize the problem. By doing this you can start the process of transformation, for it is on the other side of the setback that we realize we are not going to be the same person we were before. We are going to be wiser, stronger, and better for it. Secondly, eliminate blame. Things happen for no obvious reason sometimes. Exploring the way forward is much healthier than trying to blame someone or something for a setback that is irreversible.
Thirdly, tap into your inner strength. An artist in Mexico lost his right hand while working on a statue. But he did not give up his work. He learned to carve with his left hand. His beautifully finished masterpiece was called ‘In Spite Of.’
“Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting.”
Fourthly, give yourself time. Just as we need to allow time for wounds and broken hearts to mend, we need to allow ourselves time to overcome our setbacks. Impatience only makes them harder and longer than they need to be.
Henry Ford said,
“Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks that we endure help us in our marching onward.”
Finally, step out of your comfort zone and confront it. Staring a setback in the face has enormous power to push you towards solutions and provide you with the resilience to not give up. Push ahead with purpose! T.D. Jakes said, “A setback is a setup for a comeback” Actress Rachel Griffiths said, “There’s nothing as exciting as a comeback – seeing someone with dreams, watching them fail, and then getting a second chance.” This week I am writing this letter for me, but I know many others are needing this too. May you have the courage and strength to face up to your setbacks, stare them down, and take positive steps towards overcoming each one of them!
Have a wonderful week!
If you have any questions or feedback about “Facing Setbacks” please email me at email@example.com, I would love to hear from you.
Antony Jennings is an international trainer, consultant and motivational speaker based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Antony writes this free weekly mentoring letter to support and encourage those who are serious about taking charge of their lives. You will find an archive of his letters at www.antonyjennings.comorwww.zifundise.com
- I Have Not Failed! (indigowrites.com)
- The Four P’s : PushBack’s /Setback’s (simplythedime.wordpress.com)
- A Setback Is A Set Up For A Comeback (therightrevrhino.org)
- How to Protect Yourself from Failure (crosstiesolutionsltd.com)
- How to Protect Yourself from Failure – After the Setback (venitism.blogspot.com)