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When we look at highly successful people, all we see is the image they present to us. They appear composed, confident, and have the traditional signs of success – prominent job, high salary. Their lives seem to be under control. It looks as if they’ve always been successful. But that’s only the surface. We don’t see the struggles, the personal sacrifice, possibly lost relationships, periods of self-doubt and professional setbacks. I can’t think of anyone I’ve met who hasn’t encountered a “falling rock” on their path to success. We don’t learn from the easy things. We learn from difficult situations, jobs that are really hard and (dare I say it) –
We learn from our failures.
Looking back at the most difficult times in my career, I can point to specific lessons I learned from those experiences: courage, assertiveness, stakeholder management, conflict management, the importance of self-care, managing corporate politics, and more. I don’t even remember the easy jobs. They were the plateaus. It was the climbs up the mountains that advanced my development and my career.
The key to overcoming any career set back is to keep moving forward.
Years ago, I met a woman in a mentoring meeting. She was telling me about being laid off. As she went on and on with her story, I asked her when this had happened.
“Ten years ago,” she replied.
Since that difficult time she had been rehired by the same company and was respected for her work. Yes, she was still letting the past drag her down. What was history in everyone else’s mind was this woman’s present. As a result, she was limiting her professional progress.
A career “falling rock” will knock you down, but the only way it can really hurt you is if you let it stop you. To recover from a career “falling rock”:
- Don’t wallow in self pity. This might surprise you, but you’ll be the one remembering the experience long after everyone else has forgotten it. They’re not focused on you, so don’t spend time feeling sorry for yourself.
- Reflect – honestly. Now is not the time to blame others. Even if there is plenty of blame to go around, this is the time for you to consider what you, and only you, could have done differently in the midst of the situation. Let your reflection focus on your actions, not everyone else’s. You might encounter a similar situation in the future. When you do, what will you do differently?
- Learn. What lessons did I learn from this experience? Was it a new skill? Were there red flags that could have kept me out of the situation in the first place?
- File it. You might take this literally, keeping a journal or file of your reflections and learnings. Or you might just decide to let it go and forget it if that serves you well. I’ve done both, depending on the depth and seriousness of the situation.
On the road to success, “falling rocks” are inevitable, but they don’t have to stop you in your tracks. Hidden inside each obstacle you encounter is a lesson that will help prepare you for what lies ahead.
Question of the Day (QOTD): What career “falling rock” are you thankful for that used to weigh you down?