8 great ways to overcome your setbacks.

Long-term success is hard. Partially because short-term success isn’t that hard. It’s easy to string together a couple of quick improvements when you start anything new. Because you start everything new at your lowest level. Which means the first few steps often offer quick wins, confidence, and rewards. You just follow the yellow brick road, and all the little people cheer you on and give you new shoes.

Things Get Harder

But then you run into a non-improvement event. Or the unthinkable: Deprovement. Then you take a few steps back. This is especially common when you have really great success right out of the gate. Because you set the bar higher than you have the capacity to clear with your early skills and experience. #childactors

It Happens To The Best Of Us

But setbacks also occur when you have loads of experience. Because what used to drive better and better results stops working. Frustration sets in. Your confidence takes a kick in the tenders. And there you are at the crossroads of success.

This is your movie moment. This is when too many people quit or give up. Which is the only way to truly fail. When you face such challenges, and challenges will be faced, here’s a recipe to move beyond the swirly-whirly swamp of stalled progress, and fulfill your personal legend.

8 great ways to overcome your setbacks.

  1. Short-term goals. Set easily achieved short-term goals that get you moving in the right direction again. Make some of them laughably easy. That way you will both meet your goals and laugh. #winwin
  2. Long-term vision. Remember the big picture. Your long-term goals will not be achieved in one straight push. Keeping the long-term perspective reminds you that this is just a chapter in your story. And adversity helps make every story better.
  3. Focus on the most impactful area of improvement. Find your one thing to focus on that will have the greatest impact. There are almost always small actions that have huge consequences. Find those actions and take them.
  4. Forget your failures. Don’t dwell on your failures. Move past them as quickly as possible. Nike Founder and CEO Phil Knight said, “The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past.”
  5. Identify with your successes. Remember that the successful you is the real you. The setbacks and stumbles are temporary and will soon be purged. Like Chris Gaines or Sasha Fierce.
  6. Take responsibility for your failures. Take complete ownership of your failures and shortcomings. By taking ownership of them, instead of blaming others or making excuses, you are taking full ownership of the solution too.
  7. Look at other areas of your life. Humans are complex machines. Often a disruption in one area of your life has an impact on other areas. Examine your sleep, your nutrition, your relationships, your other stresses, and your time commitments. Chances are that the challenges you are experiencing in one area of your life are having an impact on other areas of your life as well. Because the hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone.
  8. Believe in yourself. Have faith in your ability to identify the problem and make the necessary adjustments. Lead your own fan club. Because the person who thinks they can and the person who thinks they can’t are both right.

Key Takeaway

Setbacks are a key part of any great story. They force you to improve. Which ultimately makes you stronger, smarter, and more capable to face the next challenge. So embrace your challenges. Then go write your next great chapter.

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Why it’s important to give yourself permission to be an amateur.

When I became an entrepreneur one of the greatest gifts I gave myself was permission to be an amateur. Entrepreneurs ultimately need to know everything there is to know about starting and running a business. Yet the vast majority of this knowledge comes from on-the-job training. Which is how you learned to ride a bike. It’s how the Wright Brothers learned to fly. It’s how MLK learned to give great speeches. And how we all learned to do the Electric Slide (boogie woogie woogie).

By allowing yourself to be an amateur you allow for mistakes and put a premium on learning, not knowing. Remember, you could never learn to juggle without making mistakes. The same is true with standup comedy. And parenting your children. (Don’t tell my kids I said that. Who am I kidding, they already know.)

In every area of life, we start out stupid. Being okay with that and adopting a trial-and-error-and-correction mindset is the smart approach.

As an entrepreneur, I do what I know to do until I discover a better way. The secret is to always be looking for and open to that better way. Once you find it, you add it to your personal weaponry and you take another step forward. Those who reach the highest level of achievement simply never stop taking steps forward. Neither should you.

Key Takeaway

Allow yourself to be a beginner. Allow for mistakes. When you accept your amateur status the journey from ignorance to intelligence is more enjoyable and rewarding. Learn and grow as you go. Recognize your improvements. And know that you can apply this technique to anything in life.

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Why it is so darn important to be patient with yourself.

When I was a little boy I had a piece of needlepoint art hanging on my wall. It featured a simple image of a little cowboy and his broomstick horse. On the needlepoint were the words, Please be patient… God isn’t finished with me yet… It was a daily reminder to a growing boy that I was a work in progress.

My art looked a lot like this. Except it had a wooden frame. And both of my ellipses had 3 dots.

Today, most people would consider me a full-grown man. After all, I can grow a full beard and mustache. I am over 6 feet tall and can reach the highest shelves on my tippy toes. I am married with 3 children. I own my own business. I can legally drive a car, vote, and drink alcohol. Although I vote not to drink alcohol because my tastebuds stopped maturing when I was 13, right in the middle of my chocolate milk/ Fun Dip/ Pop Rocks phase.

Despite the fact that I have been wearing the same shoe, pant, and shirt size for multiple decades now, I can proudly say that I am still growing. I am still learning new things every day. I ask questions. I read books and magazines. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts when I drive. And I watch a lot of hilarious videos that teach me things, like how much human weight is too much for a porch swing.

Plus, I still make mistakes. A lot of mistakes. But I learn from them. In fact, I get better by making mistakes. Because my mistakes help me discover more things I didn’t know. Like the fact that dickssportinggoods.com is a better place to find running shoes than dicks.com.

I am willing to bet that you are still learning and growing and making mistakes too. I hope you are. It is how the human machine continuously improves itself. It is the hallmark of intelligent life. And it is how we can all end each day a little better than we were when we woke up.

Key Takeaway

Let’s all remember that we are all still works in progress. Let’s be patient with ourselves and with each other. Because as I was reminded daily when I was a boy, God isn’t finished with me yet. And he isn’t finished with you either.

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An inspiring reminder to never give up on your dreams.

A few years ago Andrew Young spoke at my office in Atlanta. I was thrilled by the opportunity to hear him speak. Young is a political rockstar. He was a U.S. Congressman, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and mayor of Atlanta. Before all that, Young was a key figure in the American civil rights movement. And he was the first person mentioned by the Village People in the song Y.M.C.A.

I knew Young’s talk would be inspiring. But like so many memorable moments in life, one of the greatest sources of inspiration from his talk came from an unexpected surprise he shared.

As Young recounted the excitement and profound significance of the civil rights movement, he talked about just how impressive Martin Luther King Jr. was. He said that the whole movement was full of leaders. But Martin, as Young called him, was the clear leader of leaders.

However, it was a quick and simple fact thrown in for humor that still sticks with me 5 years later. Young shared that when King was in college at Crozer Theological Seminary school he got a C in public speaking. And no, a C in Seminary school does not stand for Christ-like, or Crazy-good.

Drink this in for a moment. As a pastor, reverend, priest, or rabbi your number one job skill, other than knowing a hell of a lot about God, has to be public speaking, right? And King was struggling in that department.

Yet we all know how the story ends. Ultimately, King is best known for his public speaking. In fact, there may be no one in American history better known for their public speaking skills than MLK.

If you asked me to name the 3 most famous speeches in American history I would say Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Kings ‘I have a dream’ speech, and then I would probably throw in Billy Madison’s ‘The Puppy Who Lost His Way’ speech, because I can’t really think of any others.

The fact that King, who became one of the most inspiring speakers in history got a C in public speaking in college adds to his inspirational legacy. It reminds us that where we start is not where we end. It reminds us to unearth our hidden talents, develop our skills and think about where we are going. Not where we have been. It also reminds us that disappointment and dissatisfaction can be powerful motivators.

In other words, have a vision of your fully realized dream state, and work to make it your reality. Which is exactly what MLK Jr. did.

If you are willing to focus, practice and work there is no limit to how great you can become. Overcoming initial discouragement is critical. Recognizing where you are in your journey and visualizing how much more you are capable of is key.

Remember, the worse you start out the more you are capable of improving.

Key Takeaway

Where you start is not where you will end. Focus on the process of improvement. If you are willing to put in the work, effort, learning, and practice there is no telling how much you are capable of. In other words, if you have a dream, keep at it until it is real. It is really up to you.

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Find people who ask you questions you didn’t know to ask.

I have a new startup business idea in the embryonic stage. I know what I want it to look like fully-formed, but I don’t know some of the most basic details that will help me get there. Or at least I didn’t until yesterday (when all my trouble seemed so far away).

Good Call

Yesterday morning I had a call with an expert that I would need to partner with to make this idea a reality. He asked me many important questions about my plan that I simply had no answers to. There were a lot of TBDs. But with each of the TBDs, I became more D to find the answers.

One Giant Leap For Startupkind

That conversation was a huge leap forward for me. Because now I have my homework assignments. I know the answers I need to find. I know the boxes I need to chickity check. I know what I don’t know, you know. And like Robert Frost said, that makes all the difference.

Move Forward.

Entrepreneurship, and growth of all kinds, are adventures into the unknown. The most important thing is to start moving forward. Take a step and the next step will reveal itself. Kinda like a striptease.

Don’t be afraid to be asked questions you don’t know the answers to. Those questions are gifts. They tell you what you are looking for next, where you need to go next, what you need to do next. Because growth is all about what’s next.

Grow vs. Wade

Get in over your head. It is the fastest way to discover the next step. Getting into a conversation that makes you feel dumb is the best way to get smart. Stepping out of your comfort zone is simply the first step to expanding your comfort zone. That is how you grow.

Key Takeaway

When you step into the unknown growth is inevitable. It helps you collect questions. In the beginning, the questions themselves are the answers you are looking for. Learn the questions. Find the answers. Then find yourself where you always envisioned you would be.

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