So maybe you’re living in sadness town, which is located in the southern part of Failurefornia. It’s like California but you only go there when you’re bummed out.
Maybe you’re struggling with job loss or divorce. Maybe your roller derby team didn’t make it to the finals, or your neighbor won’t stop pestering you about your forbidden midnight grilling.
Regardless of how you ended up in this dark failure trench, you’re here. But you can’t be here forever. No, we simply will not allow it. So how in the heck do you climb up on out?
1. The Obstacle is The Way
What do we mean by this? Well, firstly, it’s a pretty good self-help book by Ryan Holiday. It’s all about how ‘the crazy ones’ – the innovators, leaders, and creators, use hardship to propel themselves forward.
It’s okay to be discouraged. It’s not okay to quit. To know you want to quit but to plant your feet and keep inching closer until you take the impenetrable fortress you’ve decided to lay siege to in your own life—that’s persistence. -Ryan Holiday
Holiday’s philosophy is deceptively simple: “Don’t stop when faced with an obstacle. Accept that it exists, and then make the obstacle the objective.”
Let’s say you’ve lost your job and you are just so down about it you can’t even begin to think about searching for other jobs. You feel so overwhelmed and stressed. Your anxiety is crushing you into small, tasteless bouillon cubes. You wouldn’t even make a so-so soup, that’s how tasteless you feel.
Holiday says that those emotions aren’t helping you one inch, so you have to accept them, accept that they’re real, but know they’re not reality.
When you manage this, double down on your job search. Make it the only thing that matters. Because, truly, it is the only thing that matters. Not the fact that you’ve been fired, or that you failed. No, it’s your actions that truly matter. It’s what you accomplish with the fat, foul-smelling life lemons you’ve been handed, not how they make you feel.
2. Sometimes You Need to Get by with a Little Help From Your Friends
It was Ringo Starr who said “Drumming is my middle name,” which is probably not true. He also said “I get by with a little help from my friends,” which probably is true.
We often find ourselves ashamed of the adversity we face and our apparent inability to overcome it on our own. There’s the turn of phrase – to pull oneself up by the bootstraps. We think “why can’t I pull up these dang bootstraps?” The simple fact of it is that some bootstraps are too heavy to pull up on one’s own.
Consider elephants for a moment:
In nature, when a female elephant is sick or wounded, the other females form a circle around her. They protect her, nurture her, and watch over her until she is strong enough to stand on her own.
Wow! Elephants are large. Maybe even the largest! And even they need some help now and again. Think, if elephants, who are incredibly tender and strong, need some communal help – why wouldn’t you? Sometimes, the only thing that can soothe is a nice shoulder to cry on. So the next time you have a bad breakup or feel particularly ill, contact some friends to form a circle around you. You need nurturing too.
3. Embrace Failure
Failure gets a bad rap. Everybody is afraid of failure and so many people use their fear of failure as a means to avoid taking meaningful risks. In spite of its bad reputation, failure is an essential ingredient, like J.K. Rowling says:
It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.
J.K. Rowling knows what it means to fail. The Harry Potter series was rejected an astounding twelve times by different publishers until it was finally picked up. Can you imagine being one of the twelve publishers that said “No” to what is arguably one of the most beloved and iconic literary franchises on earth? Or what about the executives at Fox who passed on the television show Seinfeld, the series finale of which drew 78 million viewers? Or even the record label that passed on The Beatles? What do all of these instances share in common? Failure. They all failed initially and went on to become cultural touchstones. Make of that what you will.
4. Detach From Outcomes, Focus on the Process
Most of us have a drive. If you’re reading this, we know you have a drive. It’s that drive that can take us to the dizzying heights of success, but also into the lowly pit of failure. We become so focused on the desired outcome that we don’t take the time we need to appreciate exactly why it is we’re so driven towards the goal.
What is it that is driving you toward your desired outcome? What are your passions and values? Are the steps you’re taking toward your goal in line with those things? If you are growing and learning and living close to your values and passions all along the way, any outcome you achieve will feel worthwhile—even if it is not your ideal. It won’t be time wasted; it will be a life well lived.
When we fail repeatedly, it’s not because we’re doomed or destined to fail. Sometimes we just need to recalculate our approach. Maybe you’ll even find that what you thought you wanted wasn’t really what you wanted after all. You’ll reevaluate your goals, set new ones, and go on to prosper.
It’s easy to get stuck in the negativity loop. It might help to know that the very fact that you’re reading about the art of bouncing back means that you will, inevitably, bounce back.
You’re stronger than you think, you’re better than you know, and them’s the facts.