Passed up for the promotion? Don’t seem to be getting ahead? Got fired? This will help you deal with disappointment.
Have you been through this? You’ve sacrificed time with your family, weekends and evenings to be a stellar performer. Yet, you’ve been passed up (again) for a promotion while your slacker coworker seems to be skyrocketing up the corporate ladder.
How about this? You’re called in for a routine meeting only to learn that you’re being let go due to changes in the corporate structure, culture or management. It couldn’t happen at a worse time – you have two small children and a mortgage.
And this? The client you’ve been banking on decides to pull out of the deal, leaving you with the no choice but to rack up credit card debt to pay your staff.
Or this? Your significant other needs “to talk” about “us”…. and he’s not a “talker”….
All of these scenarios have one common theme: the gut-wrenching wave that starts slow and then hits you hard. In other words, the nauseating feeling of disappointment.
If you haven’t experienced this before you’re either lying or you’re seriously living below your potential. And if you have, then you’re on your way to living a better life and, perhaps, millions. At least that’s what the most successful people claim.
Here’s a secret that I thought was blatantly obvious: I’ve experienced endless moments of disappointment in almost every facet of my life. From dinners I’ve slaved over that ended up tasteless and over-spiced to huge clients breaking their contracts (or stringing me along) to television shows never making it past the idea phase and partners walking away when I needed them most. Oh yeah, and there was that time in high school when I was fired because I refused to sell people “junk” shoes.
Despite disappointment being a major theme in my life, I’ve never talked about it. Perhaps because it’s embarrassing and because it seems to happen to no one else but me! Or so I thought. As it turns out, the reason why we don’t talk about disappointment is because no one wants to post a picture of themselves eating a failed dinner, getting a divorce or emptying their cubicle. Our secrecy around disappointment is, well, disappointing because it limits our ability to maximize on this experience.
I don’t mean to trivialize facing a setback. In fact, each of my big disappointments did temporarily force me into the fetal position. However, the lessons I’ve learned were unforgettable and critical to me living, doing and acting better. And, as Google tells me, it turns out that the “greats” would all agree.
I’d like to save you the time and pain of trying various solutions to overcoming disappointment (read: whiskey is not a solution). After years of developing rebound systems and endless hours of research, I’ve finally compiled the most critical steps to pulling a Steve Jobs – coming back stronger and better – after falling flat on your face.
The FOUR critical lessons from those who’ve made it “big”, despite huge set backs.
Step 1 – Don’t react
Yes, you’ve just been unjustly let go or you didn’t get the promotion. But, don’t throw the stapler. Do you really want to have enemies? The answer is no. In fact, it’s critical to gather your supporters at this juncture and ignore the people who want to see you fall further down. It’s your supporters who will help you figure out the next step, tell you what’s really going on behind closed doors and may even introduce you to your new career. What is more, if you act out now, that’s how they’ll remember you; not as a levelheaded and brilliant individual, but a crazy person who can’t be trusted when things get difficult.
For example, I have one friend who drank far too much and decided to “drunk dial” a couple of co-workers during the middle of the day. He was brilliant and had a fabulous reputation in the legal industry. Now, no one will hire him because he’s a “loose cannon”. So, sit back and reflect. Don’t pass judgment until you have information on what’s going on.
Step 2 – Deal with the rage
I endorse some “why me?!” time. Deal with the pain because, if you don’t, it’ll come up later and your anger will feed upon itself and taint all aspects of your life. It’s been my experience that bitterness and disappointment seems to breed more bitterness and disappointment. This then breaths life into Murphy’s Law and kicks off a series of unfortunate events. Avoid this outcome by giving yourself a week to beat up your pillow, eat pizza, drink wine and binge on Netflix. Then move on to step number three.
Step 3 – Reframe loss as opportunity
The biggest regrets of not only famous people, but everyone, is not quitting earlier, not having the guts to start their own business, taking jobs for money, rather than opportunity, and living a life that was not authentic to who they are.
Given the fact that what you do with your life will be the source of whether or not you lived a life of regret, reframe this setback as an opportunity to create the life you want. Whenever I have a setback I think: this is awesome – I get to rebuild my life the way I want it to be!? How often do I get to try a new career or do something different? Reframing the loss into opportunity will spur creativity and help you through the final step.
Step 4 – Separate your job from who you are
We’ve all tied our identity far to tightly with who we are. Our self esteem and value is based on titles and how much we earn – this is especially true of the Millennials and just about anyone raised pursuant to theNorth American values.
Our unhealthy belief that what we do is a reflection of our moral and social value explains why facing a setback feels so personal and makes us feel so lost. I felt this sense of “falling into the abyss” after law school. I learned quickly that I’d never practice law and felt exceptionally depressed and anxious. How else will the world know I can read and I’m not that dumb if I’m not a lawyer!?
The solution: first, root your identity in what you like to do and not your job title. Then, test out what you think you like to do by volunteering or talking with those who are in the field. For example, I enjoy leading and finding creative solutions when everyone else is approaching it with a traditional lens. So, I launched a company that did just that. Famous actors and entrepreneurs saw that they enjoyed creating, so that’s what the perused with vigor and with satisfaction. Their only regret (and mine)? They didn’t do it sooner!
Epic Failures: Yes, the Rich & Famous Have Flopped Too
I’ve always found it comforting that I’m not alone when facing disappointments and setbacks. For a motivational boost, just peruse through what the best of the best have faced…one of who was told he was “too stupid to learn anything”.
A collection of failures from Business Insider, Australia:
The Small Business Sense gives us a few more stories of failures….I’m not sure if I’d lasted! Here are a few:
And, finally, a few more stories by Business Insider (Honda has a particularly incredible story of defeat and triumph):
If the steps, above, seem like too much then just read these failures and success stories for a little boost. Clearly, you’re not on your own as you strive to push through disappointment and setbacks. In fact, as the stories of our heroes demonstrate, it’s just a necessary part of the road to success.