Setbacks: Game Over or Game On?

Josh Linkner

Josh Linkner

Five-time tech entrepreneur, hyper-growth CEO, NY Times bestselling author and venture capitalist.

What do Oprah Winfrey, Mick Jagger, and Jeff Bezos have in common? They are all incredibly successful, true, but they also have each suffered more than their share of knockdowns. Every great leader - from Gandhi to Galileo, from Beethoven and Zuckerberg - has stumbled. Those that make history also endure adversity.

A common quality among those we revere: they don't allow their setbacks to become their defining moments. Instead, they muster the resilience of a street fighter to rise up and forge ahead.

History makers say "game on" while also-rans declare "game over." The heroics aren't daring greatly, but rather rising up off the canvas every time we fall. Our ascent from the pitfalls of despair is ultimately what will shape our careers and our legacies.

We all know this, of course. But how do we actually do it? Try asking yourself these five key questions when you've stumbled, which can fuel your resolve to persevere:

1. If I'm looking back at this event five years from now, how will I tell the story? This will help put the setback in perspective, and also spark ideas on how you'll be able to bounce back.
2. While others may have some fault here too, what could I have done differently to have changed the outcome? This isn't to make yourself feel bad, but rather to extract the educational value and avoid making the same mistakes twice.
3. What's the big lesson here, and how valuable will this lesson be to me over the rest of my life? A $500 mistake can sting, but if the lesson learned is worth 100-times that over time, it was a savvy investment in your future instead of a shameful mistake.
4. How would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Steven Spielberg, or Mother Theresa respond? Of course, feel free to substitute your own personal heroes, but drawing on the wisdom of others can help you navigate a tough situation.
5. What is my very first step to rise back? A 1000-point plan can be overwhelming, but leaping into action with that first step is incredibly powerful, even if it is a baby step. One step begets the next, eventually creating unstoppable momentum.

Stumbling is part of life. If you're not messing up at times, you're probably not going hard and fast enough. The goal, therefore, isn't to avoid adversity at all costs but rather to extract every ounce of value from our losses. Setbacks can become a badge of honor rather than a scarlet letter if we lean in and rise up.

Adversity is inevitable. For you, will it signify game over or game on?

The post Setbacks: Game Over or Game On? appeared first on Josh Linkner.

Making Mistakes
In school, we're taught that mistakes should be avoided at all costs. We learn that getting something wrong somehow means that we're wrong as a human beings, that each mistake translates to a lower self-worth score. These dreaded slip-ups can be so hurtful that we learn to recoil from the very thought of stumbling, much like we avoid the hot sto...
Read More
The Mother of Dragons
Spoiler Alert! (if you haven't caught up on GOT, stop reading and JUMP to "SPOILER START" below) Wow. How incredible that the woman who built her career on kindness and empathy turned every heartfelt follower to ash this week. The power of the loyalty that she built was, prior to this week, unstoppable. Her motives pure and sincere, and those th...
Read More
The Last 10%
I was nearing the end of my three-mile run (I'm no marathon candidate), and was feeling awful. Tired, hot, sore, and ready to throw in the towel. Looking at the fitness app on my phone, I realized that I only had 10% remaining. As much as I wanted to quit, I forged ahead and completed the full run as planned. That moment of difficulty, angst, an...
Read More
Leadership Lessons from the Most Feared Jazz Song Ever Written
Ask any jazz aficionado about the most challenging jazz standard ever written, and you'll likely get a knowing smile followed by two simple words: Giant Steps. The tune, composed and performed by legendary saxophone genius John Coltrane, has sent chills down the spines of would-be performers since its release nearly 60 years ago. Performed at ...
Read More
How Google Kills Ideas to Drive Killer Innovation
According to its tombstone, Trendalyzer was a data trend viewing platform that lived a happy life from 2007-2017. Latitude, a location-aware feature of Google Maps, was just over 4 years old before it was euthanized in 2013. Fabric, a platform that helped mobile teams build better apps, was sentenced to death after only one month of life. All in...
Read More
Nine Simple Pre-Game Questions to Maximize Business Results
There's an old saying in the boxing world: "Champions don't become champions in the ring, they are merely recognized there." The implication, of course, is that hard work, day after day, in the cold gym is what enables a fighter to win. This makes sense in many areas of life. "Sweat more in practice, bleed less in war," is the basis of the Spa...
Read More
Lifelong Kindergarten
Peeking into a typical kindergarten classroom, you'll see a vibrant setting of creativity and collaboration. The colorful setting is messy, playful, and expressive as students smile with delight and their imaginations run free. Unfortunately, the creative wonder we experience as small children often declines in each subsequent year as we confron...
Read More
Is Your Work Environment a Greenhouse or a Prison?
A friend of mine's passion is growing orchids. We're talking perfect, exotic, contest-winning orchids. To get the best results, she does her work in a greenhouse. An environment that is perfectly situated to maximize growth. It fosters the ideal conditions for the natural act of creation. It's pretty obvious that orchids grow better in a lush gr...
Read More
11 Leadership Lessons from Jazz Musicians
For over 40 years, I’ve proudly worn the title of jazz guitarist. Deeply passionate about the art form, I performed my way through college and continue to savor the delicious melodies of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Dizzy Gillespie. Ironically it was jazz – not B-school – that gave me the foundation to win in the business world. While on the ...
Read More
You're Always Interviewing
You hardly slept the night before and arrived to the meeting 25 minutes early. You were wearing your favorite outfit and were fully prepared to put your best foot forward. No, I'm not talking about your first date, but rather that job interview that landed you your gig. Think about how you were fully present, asked thoughtful questions, and ...
Read More