It was a thrilling night here in Denver as we watched our much beloved Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers and come out on top. Way to go, guys! Going into the game, it seemed that football fans really couldn’t lose: the Broncos are America’s team and just about everyone loves Peyton Manning, and the Panthers were impressive all season with just one loss, while Cam Newton looked like the next legend in the making to be watched for years to come. But this isn’t a sports analysis article—it’s about success on the job, any job.
It’s simply a fact of life that every job, whether it’s in an office, on the road, hanging from the side of a building, in a store or in the wilderness, comes with plenty of disappointment—in the form of lost opportunities, costly mistakes, or just plain dumb decisions with painful consequences. It’s how those disappointments are handled that determine whether you go on to succeed, to stagnate, or to fall into a slump.
First, if you just lost out on a great-sounding job, a big sales contract, or a career-changing promotion, feel free to kick yourself for a couple minutes. If you know that what caused the fail could have been better, it’s the natural thing to want to do. Did you ‘blow it’ with one interview question, make an offensive remark in an important meeting with that big client, or slack off a little at the wrong time at work?
Taking ownership of the situation is a good first step … but don’t continue beating yourself up over the loss for more than those couple minutes. And don’t withdraw into an internal whirlwind of thoughts that tear yourself down for not meeting an expectation of perfection. No one truly expects that of you or your team—they’ll be disappointed, but they’ll forgive and move on. You should, too.
The business world doesn’t allow for an emotional recovery time—it’s running on all cylinders all the time. There are two ways to look at these types of disappointments:
- as an end—as if the entire effort that brought you to that place suddenly became wasted time because it didn’t meet expectations at the finish line (is your career a failure because of one defeat along the way—no matter the size?), or
- as a beginning—a whole new season, if you will, to renew your efforts, learn from the experience, and push on with greater commitment for a better showing next time.
Want to be a true leader within your company or team? Realize that not all the winning happens on the gridiron … or in the sales presentation or at the interview. It’s the attitude before, during, and after that show what people are really made of and which direction they’ll be going when the going gets tough.
Take your lumps when necessary, take ownership when appropriate, give credit where it’s due, and learn all you can—then move on with optimism and enthusiasm, which will strengthen not only yourself but those you work with to do greater things in the future. Failure to pick yourself up and remain emotionally connected and committed to your coworkers would be the greatest career failure of all.