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By Michael Aun


It can be legitimately said that setbacks are the absolute key to success in life. How else can one measure how one is doing?

One might further argue that setbacks are a platform for comebacks. Most disinterested third-party observers see your success or failure in life as a matter of an “overnight” thing that “just happened.”

My experience has been that is just not the case. The fact is that people who experience more setbacks also tend to enjoy more successes in life. They are unwilling to accept mediocrity as a compromise. In short, they would rather fail than retreat.

Setbacks are inevitable but how we frame those setbacks spells the difference between eventually reaching our goals or accepting less than our best.

Everyone possesses an innate desire to improve, to grow and to take it to the next level. Growth mind-set is simply an adopted belief that you can always be better.

“Setbacks create uncertainty; that is why leaders need to clarify how we will move forward,” wrote author Tanveer Naseer.

When facing a setback, the first thing to do is to remain calm about it. Did the world come to an end? Most likely not. It is essential to remain cool, calm and collected… translation stop, think and breathe.

Communication is absolutely a must when things go south or sideways. My grandfather Elias S. Mack, an immigrant with a third-grade education, once defined fear to me as “an absence of knowledge… a lack of information.” Better to keep the troops informed than to turn information over to the rumor mill.

We should act. Doing something is better than doing nothing. The troops must see that someone is in charge and taking charge of fixing the problem. Do not worry about fixing the blame; fix the problem. You can go back and fire who caused the problem later.

It is imperative to find out what went wrong and, more importantly, how can you prevent it from ever happening again? Being brutally honest is the absolute key to assessing the situation. Once unveiled, the solution will invite itself. But the key is to have a plan of action.

Develop a plan of action especially if the issue involves only a small part of your organization. We must think “big picture” when drilling down to creating a setback/comeback plan of action.

Involving your core team is imperative when you focus in on action plans. We must be aware of creating in inadvertent problem while trying to solve another unrelated problem. Additionally, when the “team” authors the success plan they will be more likely to take ownership. Ownership will define the solution.

We should never be afraid to look outside of the immediate team and ask the time sensitive question: “What would Jesus do?” Okay… create your own name for the guy who is going to bless your plan, but it needs a blessing! 

Whether you define your solution from internal or external resources, make sure to keep it positive- focus on getting it right this time and not on what went wrong. Do not deny a problem; focus on a solution while focusing on the morale of all involved when drilling down on a fix.

Often a detour is the result of an immediate setback. One could even argue that setbacks are not the opposite of success… it is part of success. Theodore Roosevelt argued “It is hard to fail but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”

In simpler terms, you only fail when you stop trying. The word fail is an excellent acronym for First Attempt In Learning. Alabama head football coach Nick Sabin loves saying “Don’t waste a good mistake like a loss. Learn from it.” It is clearly why he is one of the best “bounce-back” coaches in all of college football history.

And Henry Ford may have expressed it best: “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Michael Aun Hall of Fame Speaker CSP®, CPAE ® is the author of  “Beating the Odds… How to Take the Gamble Out of Life”