Years ago there was an indoor “atmosphere” created at the University of Arizona. In this dome, researchers noticed that before the trees reached full maturity they would break apart. Later, they discovered that wind strengthened a tree’s core by blowing it back and forth. But, the dome had no wind.
I had a friend tell me this story several years ago explaining that in life, we must have adversity to be successful. I ended up experiencing this success lesson several years later.
Ride of a Lifetime
In my 20s my career took off like a rocket. I read hundreds of books, had great mentors, went to dozens of conferences and traveled to Hawaii, California and New York for the first time. I was learning tons and was on my way to becoming a business expert.
Then at 27, I resigned from my comfortable consulting job to run a business I didn’t know. At the same time, I got married, bought a house and my wife immediately became pregnant— all within three months. (I’m exhausted just writing that.) That experience in itself was an incredible season of stretching, growth and much less sleep.
Fast-forward almost three years later. Our business was reaching what I thought to be an incredible tipping point. We had a great team, gained much-needed industry credentials and were experiencing success. In the month of March of 2016, we even posted over $1.6 million in sales! Everything was looking up.
Then, “the mall” happened.
I had experienced tough projects before. Contracting isn’t an easy business but I felt my experience and skill could handle most anything. This one was different. It was the job of “Murphy’s law.”
Every piece of equipment was broken multiple times. The materials didn’t react properly, the schedule was thrown off and to top it all off, all work was performed in the middle of the night.
By the end of July, my blood pressure was 160/101 and remained there for eight weeks. We were $100,000 over budget, I was waking up every night in cold sweats and receiving a call each morning that yet another problem had transpired during the night.
On the worst week, I drank a 5-hour energy shot every night at 9 pm, stayed up all night to monitor progress and then slept for only 1 hour the next day. When I returned home, I discovered one more critical item that needed completion before the weekend was out.
So, assembling a crew, I flew back to Tennessee to work all night with our guys and flew back to Raleigh the next morning. 48 hours without sleep. For the next month, we made consistent progress each night until the job finally completed.
If you are pursuing success, you will have setbacks, mistakes, and seemingly impossible hurdles. It’s not continual triumphs that make you successful. It’s how you overcome and handle the problems. I’m far enough from it now to see the lessons I needed and the growth I had to have.
“Before success comes to any person’s life, we’re sure to meet much temporary defeat and perhaps, some failure. When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and the most logical thing to do is quit. That’s exactly what the majority of men do.” — Napoleon Hill
Reflecting on this event, here is a list of principles to remember when you experience your own setbacks.
5 Ways to Overcome a Major Setback
- Remember: Just because it’s not your fault doesn’t mean it’s not your responsibility. I wanted to blame everyone. My trade partners weren’t delivering, the products were bad, and the client was too difficult. But those things don’t matter. These are the times you either rise to the occasion and take leadership or just whine.
- When all else is out of control, you can still control your attitude.You’ve probably heard, “Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it.” Whether that’s true or not, tomorrow always comes and whether you remain positive or become a tyrant will be remembered long after the event ends.
- Celebrate the small successes. As we approached the last few weeks of the project, I distinctly remember one night around 2 am conducting a large pour and everything was going great. Standing outside smoking a cigarette I remember telling Josh, our Superintendent, “I think we’re going to make it.” We held a middle of the night cook-out for the crew the next week and as a result, everyone’s spirits rose.
- Continue to value people. Working in construction I get furious when I see people treated badly. Fortunately, I’ve had great models and know that 0% of the time is it ever worth it to belittle or berate someone. The people with you during difficult times will many times be there afterward and the relationship needs to remain intact. I’m not saying I acted perfectly but halfway through the project I ended every text and calls to Josh with “keep the faith.”
- Take a break and reflect. Here’s the good news; you will overcome. The proverbial dust will settle and life will return to normal. For three weeks after we finished, I walked into the office with a lifeless gaze struggling to keep my enthusiasm up. I finally took 9 days off and slept in, took walks and pulled myself back together.
I’ve pondered many times…did I fail? Did God have to humble me? Was I in over my head? For months I said yes, I failed, learned and have gotten over it.
However, about a month ago I listened to the Dave Ramsey Show and Dave said failure isn’t failure unless you quit. Otherwise, it’s only an experiment.
I didn’t quit. I pushed through and came out on the other side. It was a costly experiment and this year, we are having our best year ever.
Question: What challenges have you overcome?
CALL TO ACTION
I’ve written a manifesto on how to know exactly what you want, create your future and re-wire your brain to succeed. This 3 step process is detailed in my FREE e-book: You, The Ideal Candidate: A Short Guide to Getting Exactly What You Want In Your Career — and Life.
Click here to get a free copy sent right now.