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Four Ways to Bounce Back From Setbacks
4:35 PM Wednesday January 7, 2009
Harvard Business Review
This week’s question for Ask the Coach:
What tips/advice do you have for how we can face job insecurity and loss in the current economic climate?
Today’s business world is increasingly challenging–with economic unrest and rapid changes in infrastructure. Many good people have recently found themselves facing job insecurity and layoffs. I contacted my good friend and best-selling author Karen Salmansohn for some tips on bouncing back and even thriving in the face of adversity.
Karen, would you answer this question for us?
Karen: Sure Marshall, I’d be happy to!
1. To those of you who have just endured a career adversity, join the crowd–and by the way, it’s a very distinguished successful crowd.
Many members of the Fortune 500 Club could easily earn membership in the Misfortune 500 Club. Successful people are not people who never fail; they are people who know how to fail well. They have learned to use the leverage of a failure to push themselves up higher.
Bill Gates relishes the lessons of failure so much that he purposely hires people who have made mistakes. Roberto Goizueta, Coca-Cola’s CEO, says the risk-taker mentality is the very reason he hired back the guy who launched New Coke–a huge marketing failure. Goizueta recognized that you can become uncompetitive and dangerously inactive if you let “avoiding failure” become your motivator. “You can stumble only if you’re moving,” he says.
If you’ve recently stumbled and fallen in your career, re-focus on how your risky thinking makes you more knowledgeable. See work failure as “fullure”–full of many lessons.
2. Think like a lion about your firing. Graham Thomas Chipperfield, a lion tamer with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, was bitten by Sheba, one of his 500-pound lionesses
Before he got back in the cage with her, he analyzed the event from her point of view. First, he recognized that lions tend to think of the trainer as another lion. So, when he attempted to break up a fight between her and another lion–Sheba figured that he wanted to join fight!
Did Chipperfield blame Sheba for her inaccurate thinking? No. He took time to see the biting from her perspective. This is the same technique as that used by many therapists–beginning with Freud–called “mimesis.” Through such role-play from offending party’s perspective, patients can better understand why someone has “bitten” them and hopefully avoid being bitten again. If you’ve been fired, rejected, yelled at, take time today to see things from “Sheba’s Point of View,” so that perhaps you can avoid this happening again.
3. If you ask depressing questions, you will get 100% depressing answers. For example it does no good to ask yourself: Why didn’t I…? What if…? Why me…? Would you accept some of the mean questions you ask yourself if they came from an outside source? Doubtful! So you have to “stop ‘em and swap ‘em” immediately for these questions that bounce you upward: What can I do to move forward? How can I grow from this challenge? What’s within my control to change?
4. Shrink negativity into “nuggetivity.” Limit the amount of time you allow yourself to think negative thoughts to three-minute nuggets, three times a day. Set aside a specific time of day when you will allow yourself to think negative thoughts. Whenever a negative thought enters your head, tell yourself it will have to wait until your preset Negativity Appointment. Who knows, maybe you won’t even want to think negatively once this time swings around?
Marshall: Thanks Karen! What an uplifting interview. For more career and happiness info pick up Karen’s new book The Bounce Back Book: How to Thrive in the Face of Uncertainty, Setbacks and Losses, or go to notsalmon.com.
Readers: Your thoughts and ideas on this subject are greatly appreciated. Please send comments.
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