You might be wondering why, since the previous chapter was all about finally buckling down and getting work done, I’m now throwing in a chapter about setbacks. And I get it. I mean, here you’ve got all this great momentum going and I come along and remind you of the possibility that things may not go as planned.
Well, I’ve got good reason to do so, and this is it: in every hero’s journey, there are challenges and setbacks (and yes, you are the hero of your story). There just are. No matter how finely planned a pursuit, something is bound to go wrong along the way . . . it’s just part of the deal. Ask Michael Jordan, who got bumped from his high school varsity basketball team, or Oprah Winfrey, who lost a hosting gig early in her career because someone thought she wasn’t “fit for television,” or Bill Gates, who dropped out of college, or John Grisham, whose first novel was rejected by sixteen agents and twelve publishing companies. The list of famous failures goes on and on, but you get the point: everyone struggles; everyone fails sometimes.
Cammy Nelson noticed that setbacks were a regular part of trying to get her nonprofit, Rep Your School—Build a School, off the ground. No was apparently the word of choice as Cammy worked her way up the university hierarchy of administrators trying to get the green light so she could turn her idea into reality.
“I don’t usually burst out in emotion, but when I get really frustrated or upset, I handle it by having a minor breakdown and crying a lot. That’s just how I’ve always been whenever I get really frustrated. So there were a lot of tears shed—I was just so frustrated with people not seeing the same potential of the program that I did. And so I remember one night sitting on my campus calling my parents because I was like, ‘I don’t know what to do anymore.’ I just wanted it to happen because I believed it would be good.” But Cammy didn’t let that stop her. “I handled it by setting up another meeting. I just thought, This isn’t going to stop here. So I sent another email and set up a meeting with the people who eventually said yes. I guess I handled those setbacks by getting overwhelmed and then letting it go and then taking the next step. But there were lots of tears shed,” she says.
So, failures and setbacks? The reality is, there’s a very good chance they will happen to you. Maybe not today, maybe not during the particular goal you’re chasing right now, but at some point, it’s gonna happen. And when it does, your default reaction may be feeling uncomfortable, scared, disheartened, frustrated, or simply like a big old failure. But here’s the thing about setbacks: if we can persevere and remind ourselves of our intentions, those setbacks may not only get us where we want to be but also make the whole journey more meaningful and rewarding when we’re on the other side.
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