Monday Mornings with Madison

Staying Positive When Bad Things Happen – Part 2

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Estimated Read Time: 6 min.

Using a Setback as a Springboard to Success

It is probably safe to say that basically no one wants to get fired from a job.  No vendor delights in having a client end a business relationship, and no client enjoys having a service provider say “I don’t want to work with you anymore’.  No attorney wants to lose a case, and no doctor wants to lose a patient.  But those things happen, and they happen even to the most capable professionals.  At best, these situations feel like a slap in the face.  At worst, it is seen as a personal failure or a professional catastrophe.  But, perhaps, it shouldn’t.  Ending a working relationship or losing a client is something that happens to most people at one point or another in their lives, and often it is not a reflection of that person’s value, worth, skills or abilities.  In fact, at times it says more about the person or company doing the ‘ending’ than it does about the person being rejected.

A Bad Thing Can Actually be a Good Thing in Disguise…

The truth is that rejection from one thing can often turn out to be a very good thing.   So why does a person want to hang his head in shame?  Why does it feel like a body blow?   And, is there a way to flip the narrative in order to view that negative as a positive?

Being rejected feels bad because no one ever wants to be expendable, unneeded, rebuffed or unwanted.  And, it is scary to suddenly lose income, respect, status or trust.  So it is normal to feel bad initially after a professional setback.  But, the way to lessen the blow is by considering that this life-altering event is not a rejection.  Instead, it should be viewed as a redirection… a shift in the trajectory or path.  Indeed, for many, a change in employer, client, patient or vendor can serve as a springboard to bigger and better things… a blessing in disguise.  And, it can be a learning experience, providing an opportunity for growth.  Given how much the pandemic is changing the work landscape, this is a great time for those caught in the shakeup to find the silver lining of the Covid cloud.  Here are some ways to turn that frown upside down.

Insight 1 – It’s probably for the Best

The first thing to realize is that being terminated, laid off or rejected means things in that relationship were not going well.  It might be because the employer shifted gears or had to downsize.  Or the company might be in financial distress.  Or It might be because a new manager wants to hire his own people or the employee just isn’t a fit with his management style.  Whatever the reason, if an employee is let go or a vendor loses a client, then that is probably for the best anyway.  That relationship is unlikely to offer meaningful, challenging and valuable work that can lead to financial rewards or professional progress.  Being ‘let go’ can be the best thing by ending a relationship that was not going to bear any more fruit.  While it might not feel good in the moment and entering the job market can be pretty scary, it should be seen as the first step in the right direction…. a chapter coming to a close and a new one about to open. It is often a good-bye that needs to happen in order for opportunities to flourish.

Insight 2 – This Doesn’t Define You

The second thing to realize is that the end of a working relationship or professional engagement does not define the person or the organization.  Most people see the end of a job or project as a personal failing.  But, this event should not be a catalyst for a loss of confidence.  It should not prompt self-loathing or negative self-talk.  Consider that sometimes a person and a job is like a square peg being shoved into a round hole.  It is not the peg’s failing that it is square and it is not the round hole’s failing that it is round.  They just don’t fit.  Last week, we looked at the career story of Lee Iacocca, who worked for Ford for years before being fired, and then went on to have amazing career success at Chrysler.  Iacocca was clearly the square peg in the round hole.  Instead of feeling embarrassed or humiliated, it is best to accept that sometimes things just don’t fit and there is a better fit elsewhere… and when the fit is perfect, great things happen.   After a brief period of introspection about what can be gleaned from the experience, it is time to shake off the sting and move on to their next big thing.

Insight 3 – Don’t Blame; Analyze Instead

The third thing to realize is that life isn’t fair and looking for someone to blame is a waste of time.  If the situation wasn’t fair, accept that fairness is not guaranteed to anyone.  And no matter how upsetting the rejection may feel, there is nothing to be gained from playing the blame game by assigning fault.  A setback can be a springboard to success, but only for those willing to set blame aside and consider honestly in what ways they might have inadvertently contributed to the setback.  That’s the only way to avoid a recurrence in the future.  But it is also important not to wallow in self-pity and place all the blame on oneself either.  In most cases, a host of forces and elements contribute to the situation.  The best approach is to analyze, not blame.  Identify what went wrong and consider how to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

One way to gain a deeper understanding about what went wrong is to ask others.  It isn’t easy to ask for feedback, even from coworkers, clients, friends or allies.  But this could be the single most enlightening step in turning a setback into a springboard for success.  This helps to reveal what people said or were saying. And, in a crisis situation, people are more likely to be forthcoming with the truth.

Insight 4 – The Sky’s the Limit

The fourth thing to realize is that being unemployed opens the door to a world of possibilities.  It used to be that someone who lost a job basically had the option to look for another job.  But that’s no longer the case.  There are so many more possibilities now for people to freelance and start businesses.  It is time to ask questions like:  Did I love this job?  What did I love about it?  What things did I not like?  Do I want to continue in this line of work?  Do I want to keep working for a company or start my own?   So being released from a job is a chance to shift gears and a perfect time to pursue a lifelong dream.

When Steve Jobs was let go from Apple, he wasn’t sure what to do next.  Imagine being let go from a company you had founded.  He was lost.  As Jobs told it, “So at 30, I am out. And a very public out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down.”  But, after a bit of wallowing, Jobs decided to start his next venture, another computer company appropriately named NeXT. However, NeXT didn’t come close to producing the success of Apple.  Seven years later, Jobs closed the factory, laid off half the employees and shifted the company’s direction to software development.  It was not until 1995 that NeXT turned a profit.  In December of that year, Apple bought the company for $400 million. The same year Jobs started NeXT, he also bought a struggling computer animation studio named Pixar from movie mogul George Lucas.  Pixar did better than NeXT, winning an Oscar for a short film Tin Toy in 1988, securing a three-movie deal from Walt Disney and starting work on the famous movie — Toy Story.  It was only because he was rejected by Apple that Jobs was free to try other things.  And in the process, he developed more humility and maturity.  That redirection provided the opportunity for him to grow as a person and as a business leader.  Eventually, he was rehired at Apple, where he transformed the company into the powerhouse technology company it is still to this day, even long after Jobs’ demise.  The moral of the story is to be open to alternatives, even if they’re not directly related to the current career path.

With millions of people unemployed in the U.S. and around the world, there are many who are feeling low about being let go.  It is important for anyone in that situation to realize that their best life yet might be just around the corner, so they better get moving.

Quote of the Week

“When you start living the life of your dreams, there will always be obstacles, doubters, mistakes and setbacks along the way. But with hard work, perseverance and self-belief, there is no limit to what you can achieve.” Roy Bennett


© 2020, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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