Few things are certain in entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, one of those few certain things is disappointment.
There’s no such thing as an entrepreneur who gets it right every time. In fact, if you are getting it right all the time, it probably means you’re not taking nearly enough risks to reach massive success.
With growth inevitably comes setbacks. You may have seen this often-shared graphic floating around social media.
It couldn’t be more true. Since success isn’t a straight line, you’ve got to learn to deal with disappointment when it comes your way and manage it effectively so it doesn’t render you powerless.
Step 1: Feel It
What’s your gut instinct when you experience a setback?
For some of us, it’s denial. Ignoring the problem or pretending it doesn’t exist is a well-documented coping mechanism our brains have developed, presumably to protect ourselves from the psychological trauma of being wrong.
For others, it’s to wallow in self-pity or a pool of doubt. I always screw things up.
Though these are common responses, neither of them are healthy nor productive for a successful entrepreneur. The first step in disappointment is to take it in and allow yourself to feel it, but here’s the catch—do it as objectively as possible.
Ask yourself the following: why specifically are you disappointed? How does this experience make you feel about yourself? What fears or doubts do you have that are playing into this emotional response?
Experience the discomfort, but examine it as well. When you take an objective look at your disappointment and the reasons behind it, you’ll often find it stings so much because the failure makes you feel inadequate. It feeds your own doubts and uncertainties and causes you to tie circumstances beyond your control to your skills or your worth as an individual.
When it comes down to it, though, 99% of the time the two things aren’t connected at all. Simply recognizing these thought patterns is a good way to stop taking disappointment so personally, while still allowing yourself to experience it for what it is.
Step 2: Keep Your Game Face On
You might be hurting on the inside, but as we all know, a good poker face can get you through even when you’ve been dealt the worst hand. As CEO and startup founder Chris Myers writes for Forbes, “good leaders don’t have the luxury of whining.”
Your attitude affects your entire team. If your staff sees you sulking, they’ll feel uninspired and doubtful as well.
It extends to your competitors as well. Any display of weakness on your part could give them the edge they’ve been looking for to take the lead in the market.
And a good game face isn’t just for your team or your opponent; it can also help you recover from your misstep, too. It’s just like that old scientific study on smiling; when you’re feeling down, simply faking a smile can have a measurable uplifting effect on your mood. In other words, fake it ‘til you make it, but don’t lose that poker face.
Step 3: Reassess
Sometimes, setbacks are gifts. They expose weaknesses in your business model or reveal the true nature of a situation that isn’t what you thought it was. Just as a computer takes the data it’s given and processes it to produce an output, so too must you take the data from your setback and use it to output a new and better game plan.
It might serve you well to take a step back briefly. Sometimes it’s the perfect opportunity to take a much-needed vacation. Clear your mind, assess the situation and re-group, then come back with a new strategy for moving forward.
Step 4: Move On
You’re allowed to have bad days—we all have them—but a profitable entrepreneur can’t afford to have bad weeks. No matter what’s going on in your psyche, don’t stop moving forward.
As author and personal finance expert Robert Kiyosaki put it, "Losers quit when they fail. Winners fail until they succeed."
Huh—think about that for a minute. Losers fail until they succeed. By his definition, failures aren’t disasters to be avoided. Instead, they’re critical steps to reaching our goal, and the more we have them, the closer we get to it.
Losers quit when they fail. Winners fail until they succeed.
Is it easy to adopt this mindset when you’ve just been hit in the face with an unexpected disappointment? Of course not. But keep it in the back of your mind; like anything else, it gets easier with practice and time.
Confront your disappointment, don’t lose your game face, re-group and then move confidently forward. Remember: fail until you succeed.
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