You probably know it well: That sinking feeling in your gut where you feel like you just got punched by Tyson. Heart-pounding, head-throbbing, room-spinning agony. We’ve all been there. Perhaps it was losing a huge client, a key team member jumping ship, or a major technology glitch. Or maybe it was a sharp scolding from a boss, an unexpected job loss, or that big setback you’ve been dreading.
These are the moments we fear; the ones that nightmares are made of. The times when we feel powerless, overwhelmed, and are left spinning with hopelessness and despair. You’re not alone. Every great leader, hero, and champion has had them too.
The real question isn’t whether or not you’ll experience this acute terror. Assuming you are pursuing anything worth doing, you will. The question becomes, how will you react?
Some of us cave to the pressure. We roll on our backs like helpless dogs exposing their vulnerable bellies. We allow ourselves to become victimized by the event, and relinquish our power to the callous circumstances. We let things happen to us.
Luckily, you need not suffer this hapless fate. Instead, you can regain your power and use the setback as a “teachable moment.” Rather than judging it, you can look at it as information that is helping you grow as a person or organization.
Throughout my own career building startups for the last 21 years, I’ve had my fair share of these moments. But now looking back, each of these painful setbacks turned out to be a blessing. In fact, many of my biggest breakthroughs came just after events that appeared to be devastating losses.
Often our biggest moments of growth come from our darkest moments of adversity. Life has a funny way of teaching us and sometimes those painful wake-up calls can be just the jolt we need to effectuate change. In these moments, you have a choice. You can cower in the corner like a guilty child, or you can use the sting as an opportunity to strengthen your resolve. You can own it, take personal responsibility, and leap into action with unwavering commitment. Even when it’s tough and you want to hide.
The most successful people have bad days too. We all stumble, but the champions don’t let speed bumps derail their journey. Instead, they look straight into the abyss and extract every valuable lesson that can be gained. And you can too.
That dreaded “oh s*&!” moment will likely crop up when you least expect it. The next time it does, don’t run from it. Seize it. It’s simply an opportunity for you to shine and grow.