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How to thrive following a setback

3 Mins

Virtually every entrepreneur will have a setback at some point, and it is said that the difference between people who succeed and people who fail is how they handle setbacks.

One person will learn from the experience and be stronger, while another will be crushed, crash and burn. One will treat it as something that “comes with the territory”, and another will see it as a reason for giving up.

Rejection, disappointment, a lost contract or sale are part of business life. What is important is how this is dealt with.

I teach people to “shut up, move on!”. Stop thinking and behaving in a way that hinders success and move forward. 

But following a setback, it’s not always that simple. If you’ve lost out on that prestigious contract to a competitor, or that amazing new business idea isn’t actually all that amazing, then you need some “Hippo Time” before you can put it behind you and move on. This is time to wallow (as hippos do in mud), acknowledge frustration, disappointment and even anger.

However, in order to make “Hippo Time” a helpful experience in moving forward there are three kinds of people to avoid:

  • The Hijackers: those well-meaning colleagues and peers who “know how you feel, the same thing happened to me”.
  • The Awfulisers: who give so much sympathy you feel even worse about the situation. “That’s terrible, the same thing happened to a friend of mine and he ended up going bankrupt!”
  • The Happies: the really positive but not very realistic people. “Never mind, I’m sure there will be another multi-million pound contract just around the corner.”

After the do nots, here are must-dos to make “Hippo Time” a helpful experience so that whatever the setback you can and will recover and thrive.

  • Allow yourself to feed bad. It is okay to feel down, give yourself permission to do so.
  • Find someone who will listen without feeling obliged to give advice.
  • Learn from the experience.
  • Give yourself and others a small treat – cakes for the team?
  • Change the record. Don’t tell all and sundry about your issue, to re-tell is to re-live and not always helpful.
  • Make space to simply be alone with your thoughts.
  • Offload all your thoughts by writing them down. This can give a sense of clarity and put you in a position to decide how best to move on.
  • Finally, stop thinking about the issue altogether so when you focus on the future you have a fresh perspective.

Successful people make sure they don’t spend too long wallowing and realise that setbacks are temporary but quitting lasts a lifetime. Take some “Hippo Time”, but then “Shut Up, Move On!” to bigger and better things.

Paul McGee is founder of The Sumo Guy.

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