Did you ever have that feeling everything was going right, that you were on top of your game? It’s a great feeling! Then, suddenly, did life decide to bring you crashing back down? You just got spanked!
This happened to me recently. I made a presentation to a group of four employees. The one I thought was the de facto leader of the group was silent through the entire presentation (with eyes closed, no less). Another employee (who never had more than a passing “hi” to say) ends up being the spokesman for the bunch. Boy, was he vocal! Most of the time I could use what he said to my advantage. But when he announced he needed to go home and think about it, the presentation was done. Everyone wanted to do the same thing. I got spanked!
How to Cope (Getting Over It)
What do you do when someone (or something) lets the wind out of your sails and leaves you feeling stranded in the middle of the ocean? Give yourself a couple of minutes to cry (you’re human after all). Then pull up your big boy or girl britches and take stock. First, give yourself credit for getting out there in the first place. That’s huge. Then ask yourself some tough questions: Why did things happen the way they did? What could have prevented the outcome you experienced? Most importantly, what will you do differently next time?
That last question is key because it forces you to stop being a victim. It’s so easy to blame the results on someone or something else. But if the cause isn’t you, the solution isn’t with you either. Now you’re really a victim, because you have to wait on that cause to correct itself. On the other hand, if you take responsibility for the results, then you’ll start looking at ways you can change the outcome in the future. To me, that’s a much better situation, because you are in control. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that there are some things we can’t affect. But all things being equal, most of us face the same uncontrollable factors. What makes one person successful where another fails in the same or similar circumstances? Many times it comes down to taking personal responsibility.
This all easy to say, but harder to do. Maybe part of the problem is the way we perceive taking personal responsibility. Often, we think of this as being wrong, that it make us a failure. That’s not what I’m talking about. Taking personal responsibility isn’t about being right or wrong. It’s simply accepting that you had a part in the results. How many times in our lives can we say that we did everything perfectly? Even when we think back on our most spectacular successes, I’m betting we can find something we wish we had done better. Therefore, all I’m saying is find those things we can do better, and then do them better. As for being a failure, it’s important to understand the distinction between failing at something and being a failure. You only become a failure when you quit. But failing is a part of life. Michael Jordan, arguably the best player in the game of basketball, missed more shots than anyone else. Granted, he did the majority of them in practice, but the point is he had to fail more than anyone else in order to become great. Yet, though he failed more times than his contemporaries, nobody considers him a failure! So let’s start looking at failing in a different light. By the way, there’s another nugget in Michael’s story: He practiced more than most others. If we’re not practicing our craft in order to improve it, that’s something we need to change!
Get Back on the Horse (Go Back for More)!
The best way to get over one of life’s stinging lessons (aka getting spanked) is to go back and do the very same thing again – after you’ve taken stock, figured out what to improve, and practiced so that you’re better. After all, if you just go back into the fray without changing anything, chances are you’ll get the same results! Plan-Do-Review is a cycle. Think of it more like “Plan-Do-Review-Plan-Do-(Review)…” Life gave you a wake-up call when you did the initial plan, then acted on it. The next step is review, so you can make a new plan then go out and do it. Whatever it was that gave you a slap in the face, now you get to look it square in the eyes and say “Bring it!”
I know – it’s not that easy getting back on the horse. What’s the alternative? Stagnation? Insolvency? You didn’t open your doors to fail. Letting a bad experience take you out of the game is not an option! Besides, there are people counting on you – some whom you might not realize look up to you. Whatever it takes to get your head back in the game, DO IT. Then get back on the field and play, welcoming the chance to go at out again, and yes, possibly getting spanked again. Why? Because you’ll get better each time – if you learn the lessons your experiences teach.
By the way, that presentation I mentioned at the outset wasn’t a total wash. Two of the four present want me to follow up in a week, and the person I thought was the de facto spokesman wants me to check with him next month. Even a bad presentation can be a good thing.
What are some of your “spanked” moments? Tell us in the Comments below.