Setbacks are Comebacks in Disguise

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How we handle our setbacks is far more important than how we handle success. We all experience setbacks in life, and our attitude about those setbacks is what determines whether we bounce back or fall hard.

The first time I lost a client, I thought the world was crashing down around me. It wasn’t just the revenue loss. It was what that meant for my company, for me, for our relevance – everything. But as I look at that moment in hindsight, I realize that by having that experience, I was able to refocus my energy and figure out a better way forward. It actually made our company better, because we were able to course correct, adjust, and improve. That’s all a setback really is – a small tug telling you it’s time to shift gears.

There’s no profession on earth where a person will experience setbacks more on a daily basis than sales. A salesperson might get rejected by 50 out of 50 prospects on Monday, and they’ve got to start it all over again with a fresh mindset on Tuesday. It’s impossible to overstate how much mental fortitude it takes not just to overcome those setbacks, but to turn them into something positive. This is one of the realizations I had that inspired my upcoming book, The Mindset of a Sales Warrior, which dives into what it means to think, act, and sell like the top 1%. 

Sales warriors don’t just know how to handle the word “no.” They’re strengthened by it.

Now one of Hollywood’s most respected directors, Steven Spielberg was rejected by his school of choice, the University of Southern California, for film three different times. But he didn’t let that stop him. Spielberg eventually secured an internship at Universal Studios after enrolling in a different college. During that internship, he was asked to direct a small film, with his work impressing Universal executives so much that they offered him a seven-year contract. He became the youngest director ever hired by the studio and now has an IMDB profile several miles long.

The cherry on top of this story is that he was awarded an honorary degree from USC in 1994 and became trustee of the university in 1996. He joked, "Since 1980, I've been trying to be associated with this school, I eventually had to buy my way in.” As of this date, Spielberg has directed 51 films and won three Oscars, and Forbes Magazine puts Spielberg's wealth at $3 billion.


Spielberg could’ve changed his path after the first rejection from that school, and most of us probably would have by the second rejection, and completely given up by the third. But Spielberg’s motivation outweighed his setbacks, and he found his breakthrough. 

Right now, I want you to create your “comeback lifeline.” This is going to lay out your history of accomplishment to give you the gratitude for the courage you’ll need to push through your future setbacks. And remember, you cannot fail. You can only learn and grow.

1. Write down 10 times in your life when you faced a setback and how you achieved a comeback.

2. For each instance, write out what you learned and the specific strategies you used to achieve your comeback.

3. Then write down what each instance did for you, instead of to you.

4. Keep this list close when you hit your next setback. Use the strategies and mental state you had in those previous moments to fuel your current one.

Sales warriors are constantly growing and adapting with every setback. They don’t see deficit gaps, only abundance gaps. Everything in your life, including and especially your setbacks, is happening for you, not to you. Finding the teachable lesson in that will gift you with your greatest renewable energy source.

Just the same, you can turn every single loss into a teachable learning moment that leads to more wins down the road.