3 Tips to Transform Setbacks Into Success
This article originally was published on April 30, 2015.
Life as an entrepreneur is what you make it. The consistent character you’ll hear about in every entrepreneur’s story of success is setbacks.
When a setback strikes, it often strikes in multiples, and it’s up to you what you make of the challenges that come your way. Will you turn your setbacks into opportunities for growth, change or courage? Or will you let the stumbles get you down, or worse, keep you down and convince yourself that business and entrepreneurship just aren’t for you?
Related: Never Let a Downturn Crush You
Every day offers you the opportunity to ask yourself, “Will I let this make me better? Or will I allow this to make me bitter?” The choice is ultimately up to you.
Even when you choose better, it’s easy to feel discouraged. So if you’re aiming for better, but stuck feeling a little bitter in the moment, here are three tips to help you transform your obstacles into the way forward.
1. When in doubt, pause.
There’s a really interesting human reaction to stress that makes us want to flip out when something goes wrong. It goes back to fight-or-flight stress responses, but it doesn’t always help us.
Let’s take flight itself as an example. When you’re flying an airplane, one of the first lessons you learn is that overreacting on the yoke will cause more problems than good. In the majority of flying scenarios, keeping a loose grip on the yoke, or even letting go at certain times, though counterintuitive, is actually safer. The airplane wants to stabilize and your freaking out could cause you to jam the controls too forcefully and overcorrect, sending you into a stall, spin or crash.
It’s the same thing with driving. If you hydroplane or hit ice, the worst thing you can do is freak out and jerk the wheel in the opposite direction. What is best is to actually let go or gently steer into the direction of the slide, not away from it.
What if you’re caught in an ocean current? Guess what? Staying calm is still the right reaction. By letting yourself get pulled out in the riptide you can conserve energy and then calmly paddle parallel to the shore safely.
When things are tough or you’re facing a difficult problem, sometimes it is best to take a deep breath, collect yourself and go along with where the challenge is taking you, before you make any decisions. If you freak out and overreact to a setback, you’ll often overcorrect and make things worse. When in doubt, pause.
2. Know you’re in good company
The best in the world faced all manner of setbacks before success.
Richard Branson has never let a setback get in the way of trying something he wants to do in business or in life. He’s also never let a business failure or setback keep him from continuing to explore whole new territories. Cola was a disaster, but the airline worked. If he had been bitter about the soda, maybe we wouldn’t be enjoying our incredible Virgin flights around the world.
When you know that others have faced challenges and come out ahead, it’s comforting. Being able to study how others have overcome can also help you to set the framework in your brain for tools and techniques on how you can get better and discover success in spite of setbacks.
3. Never give up.
It’s the oldest piece of advice out there, but for good reason. When you give up, you give bitterness total power over betterment.
There’s a great saying that how you do one thing is how you do everything. If you allow bitterness into one area of your life, be warned, you may allow it to start seeping into all areas of your life.
A relationship didn’t work out -- that’s OK, a better one is on its way. A business funding setback making you feel upset? That’s natural, but remain focused on solutions.
Setbacks may mean you have to start over on a project, or even that you have to admit defeat on a business idea, but never give up your enthusiasm. When you stay positive and stay in the game, you open yourself up to possibilities.
Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.