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When I was around 14 years old, I moved out of my mother’s house and in with my father, his new wife, and her daughter in a different part of town. I would stay there for a few months, attend a different school, then move to Bangkok, Thailand, and attend school there.
At this new school, immediately I learned that one of the most popular girls in the school liked me a lot. She started calling me and having her friends invite me to parties. She would come over with various gorgeous friends to watch television at my house and invite me to go shopping with her on the weekends. I was very flattered and really enjoyed the attention. The only problem was I did not really like this popular girl. She was actually quite vicious and boys in the school were not too crazy about her either. She had become very popular by being extremely calculating politically and was gifted at forming cliques and playing people off one another. To this day, I am confident she is probably the head of the social pecking order wherever she is. Because this girl liked me so much, I suddenly found myself socializing with kids who were a couple of years older than I was. Additionally, everyone seemed to be extremely interested in being my friend.
One day after school I was hanging out with a group of three of the most attractive girls in our class. The girl that was so enamored with me was not there. We were all sitting around one of their bedrooms playing cards. I started talking to one of the girls and we really got along quite well. We were interested in the same things and, to make a long story short, I really liked this girl and she liked me. I invited her over for dinner and we spoke on the phone late into the evening that night.
Things were normal at school the next day (a Friday), but by Sunday I realized not only my admirer but the new girl I had met were not taking or returning my calls. By Monday my “girlfriend” had not only stopped talking to me completely, but she had employed various “goons” around the school to help express her displeasure; they would bump into me in the halls a little too aggressively. I had a few very uncomfortable moments in places like the lunch room where I walked up to groups of people and they dispersed. These were people who had been my friends only a day or so previously.
While I was only attending that school for a short time, I made perhaps the biggest mistake I could have made: I gave up and started feeling bad about the whole thing. Although I had not really done anything all that bad, I felt as if I had really let my “girlfriend” down by socializing with another girl. In terms of responding, my “girlfriend” knew what to do. She proceeded to have her friends and others stop talking to me. In addition, she let her wrath show in other ways that were immature but served a purpose in terms of getting me down. One thing I remember was a prank phone call where she and a bunch of girls (I think, at least) were screaming in the background they hated me.
While I should have reacted in an equally savage way, my reaction was to withdraw. I knew I would only be at the school a short while longer and so I decided to feel depressed about the whole thing. I allowed this to affect:
-Meeting new people
-Where I sat at lunch each day
-How I walked from class to class each day
-My social aspirations at the school
-My extracurricular aspirations at the school
In fact, this one little episode was something that really sent me into a serious downward spiral. It was a particularly bad episode because I did not know anyone at the school and once this girl enacted her vengeance I felt defeated. The truth, of course, was I overreacted and it was not that big of a deal. I allowed something quite trivial to really affect me in a negative way.
How many times have you allowed something quite trivial to affect you in a negative way? In your career, have you ever overreacted to an insult? If you were fired from a job, did you get depressed and withdraw? If you searched for a job for a long time with no success, did you let your failure to find the ideal job get you down?
The following story about Michael Jordan relates his key to success, and the key to doing well in everything. Jordan is widely viewed as the best basketball player of all time, but when he tried out for his high school basketball team, he didn’t make it. His reaction could have been exactly like mine when he failed to make the team. He could have become depressed and stopped socializing with the other high school basketball players. He could have given up on athletics and started doing something else, like spending his time with bad kids. He could have allowed himself to get fat and lazy. There are a multitude of things Jordan could have done when he failed to make the high school basketball team.
Think about your own life. What have you done when you failed at something?
Jordan’s reaction was to fight like hell. He started practicing more. He used his disappointment to propel him toward trying harder and harder and getting better and better. After only two years of college basketball (he made his college team), Jordan became a professional player. The rest is history.
In an interview with Jordan several years ago he was describing the secret to his success. In this interview he said when he is insulted by other people he allows these insults to just “build up,” and then he uses them as “jet fuel” for his next game. Anything bad that happens to him and any slight he receives he uses to make himself better at his game and give him passion.
Think of all of the negative things that have happened to you in your life. Think of all of the negative things that have happened to you in your career. Perhaps you have been fired. Perhaps you have been passed over for a promotion. Perhaps someone does not see or realize a particular skill that you have. Perhaps someone has treated you unfairly. Perhaps someone is treating you unfairly now.
I am sure you are like most of us and bad things have happened to you. Your reaction is the key to whether you succeed or fail.
One of my favorite rock bands is Def Leppard. I liked this band even more when I found out their drummer lost one of his arms in a motorcycle accident and kept drumming. Instead of quitting, the drummer learned to drum with one hand. Imagine the passion this must have taken. Isn’t this a wonderful example of perseverance? The drummer is also probably better known now that he works with one arm than he was when he had two.
You need to use every single negative thing that happens to you as “jet fuel” to drive your dreams and ambitions forward. The worst thing you can do is allow something negative to push you down and keep you down. Make negative things the most positive thing that could have ever happened to you. If many negative things happen you can just keep getting more fuel. Keep storing this fuel up and the world will not know what happened once you start going.
A list of some of Abraham Lincoln’s setbacks is below:
1831 – Lost his job
1832 – Defeated in run for Illinois State Legislature
1833 – Failed in business
1834 – Elected to Illinois State Legislature (success)
1835 – Sweetheart died
1836 – Had nervous breakdown
1838 – Defeated in run for Illinois House Speaker
1843 – Defeated in run for nomination for U.S. Congress
1846 – Elected to U.S. Congress (success)
1848 – Lost re-nomination
1849 – Rejected for land officer position
1854 – Defeated in run for U.S. Senate
1856 – Defeated in run for nomination for vice president
1858 – Again defeated in run for U.S. Senate
1860 – Elected U.S. President (success)
Think about all of Lincoln’s failures. Many people would give up on life after a nervous breakdown. Not Lincoln. The message here is more than just perseverance. The message I want you to understand is you need to use every single negative thing that happens to you as fuel to drive you forward. Get passionate.
The success of most individuals is largely based on how they handle setbacks. Bad things can warp and ruin many peoples’ lives. Some examples are:
For many people, a bad experience can become a filter for how they view their lives. They begin having an expectation in the future that other bad things will happen and begin to avoid situations where they believe these bad things will occur. They also often begin associating with others who support them in their negative view of the world. Think about negative groups of people you may know like this. Low achievers avoid situations where there has been some sort of pain before. They allow this pain to continue influencing them. Children often close so many doors in their life by simply avoiding areas where they have been in pain before. Adults do the same thing. Instead, imagine the power you would have if you used something negative to change your life and rechanneled your experiences into something more positive.
Another issue I want to bring up briefly involves finding your “jet fuel.” A huge mistake many people make is not being honest with themselves about the emotions they are actually feeling. Many people who may feel angry, sad, or hurt do not allow themselves to ever experience the pain associated with whatever caused them to feel bad. You need to experience the pain; the pain you feel is actually a very good thing. Experience the pain and then use this pain to fire you up to do better in the future. When you know that you can use negative energy in a positive way you will never have to be fearful of bad experiences because you will know these experiences will ultimately help you and not hurt you.
Never close down. Take punishment and learn from it.
The best lessons we get from life are from the bad things that happen to us. You can do more than learn from negative experiences, you can use them to fire you up.
Think about the power of taking intense negative energy and using this energy positively. This is a massive advantage and something that will help you greatly. If something bad happens, channel this energy into something positive. This will change your life and your career.
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