Moving On: Use Your Setbacks As Stepping Stones To Success

How do you process a professional setback? Jamila Ali shares her experience.

learn more about Jamilla D. Ali

By Jamilla D. Ali

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An abundance of success in all areas of my life is something that I've steadily strived to achieve, ever since I can remember. My eagerness for opportunity was borderline manic, and the thought of possibly failing at my endeavors was intolerable. Because my mentality was consumed by the urge to win, I found it difficult to process a recent (and major) professional setback, which ended up completely changing my life.

Although I was fully aware that potential failures and disappointments could present themselves along my career journey, I still found myself becoming disheartened and unsure of my next steps once failure entered my realm. However, I have since learned that setbacks, as painful as they may seem, are a paradoxical yet cohesive way to cause us to move forward toward a greater fulfilling, attainable objective.

While the unyielding desire to quickly recover from a life-changing setback is understandable, it's important to navigate the events following a "failure" patiently and tactfully. In my case, I learned the importance of patience and rational thinking, whilst getting past the mental exhaustion following my first major career setback. Here's what helped me to pick up the pieces of my life, dust myself off, and perhaps most importantly, move on:

Related: An Opportunity For Growth: Defining Failure In The Context Of Entrepreneurship

1. Allow yourself time to grieve

Immediately after reverting back to square one, I became glued to my laptop, essentially searching for ways to pick up where I left off right away. I spent hours upon hours, with the unlikely hope of an instant miracle. Because I was in complete denial about my situation, others noticed my behavior becoming unmotivated and pessimistic. But once I allowed myself time to digest what occurred and take the time to comprehend the situation, it became the foundation of my healing process.

2. Acceptance is key

Accepting disappointments and what you have attempted to accomplish will benefit you immensely in the long run. Hey, it didn't work this time around; however, this isn't the end of everything you've worked for. Accept what happened, pat yourself on the back for trying, and move on. It's not everyday someone jumps at the opportunity to chase their dreams, despite the odds being stacked against them.

3. Make a plan

Developing a strategic plan can be one of two things: you can develop a plan that resembles your previous one, or you can piece something together that specifically revamps what you may have done wrong previously. Because your first attempt didn't pan out as you hoped, this suggests you need to think things over in greater detail. With a bit of research and honesty (with yourself!), you can easily pinpoint where it went wrong. Because I had zero back-up, I decided to come up with a short-term plan in order to get by, while also developing a larger picture outline that would eventually lead me to my ultimate goal.

Related: Embracing Failure: Lessons From History's Most Successful Entrepreneurs

4. Mentorship is vital

I'm a huge believer in mentorship, especially for self-made professionals. If you haven't obtained a mentor, I suggest you work towards gaining one. A mentor that's willing to invest in your career potential will undoubtedly understand and relate in some way to what you're facing. You may be stunned at the obstacles your mentor has experienced in their own career path. It's important to keep your mentor in the loop of things, so they'll be able to guide you every step of the way.

5. NO = New Opportunity

Dwelling on favorable opportunities that had the potential to flourish, but simply did not, isn't the end of the world. Utilize the doors slammed in your face as a starting point to learn and revamp a pitch or idea that may need some work. Persistence has always worked in my favor, and I've witnessed first hand how a "NO" can turn into a "YES" with persistence, an open mind, confidence, and a positive attitude.

7. Giving up isn't an option

Some of the greatest entrepreneurs and professionals have failed at some point during their journey to success, whilst facing immense pressure and disappointments. This may be better said then done, but keep in mind that without a bit of struggle, there's no progress. Although your path may seem unclear at this point, it can only get better with hard work, hope, perseverance, and of course, a bit of luck.

Related: Finding Meaning In The Face Of Adversity

Jamilla D. Ali

Jamilla D. Ali is a native New Yorker and graduate of Saint Francis College in Brooklyn, New York. Jamilla previously worked at a boutique branding agency in Dubai, United Arab Emirates where she  was responsible for all new client business development efforts. Prior to Jamilla’s experience in Dubai, she was a writer for various startup blogs catered to the underground hip hop music scene and cultural activities in and around the New York City area. Jamilla continues to pursue multiple disciplines and aspires to write a book documenting her life changing experiences at home and abroad. 

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