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What to do with life’s lemons

Hopefully it doesn’t happen too often, but most of us over time will face circumstances where we just have to make the best of things and find the silver lining in something. Whether it’s a job or a contract you don’t win, there are so many times where you have an opportunity to either take the adversity you’re facing and find the opportunity in it or simply take your lumps. In the best cases, you’re able to find that silver lining and turn that adversity into something that wasn’t there before. I think that in order to do that you need to follow a couple steps.

The first step is to understand who benefits or where the opportunity lies. Sometimes that can be hard to do if you aren’t able to take a step back from the situation and really assess it without your own interests in mind. The temptation is to focus on things like maybe they didn’t evaluate correctly or the things you did wrong. Not to discount getting lessons learned out of setbacks but I think the time for that is a little farther down the road. Immediately following a setback there is a small window available to look at whose benefiting in the contract winning scenario, it’s probably whoever won the contract, and then identify where the opportunities are to align interests. Again, in that particular situation it may be that you have some special insights into the customer or maybe a special skill you possess that was the reason you were pursuing it anyway; that would be where the opportunity for you is. Figure out a way to help the person who is coming in and align your interests in a way that allows you to get some benefit. It may not be as much as you were going to get originally but something is better than nothing. Same thing goes for if it’s a job you didn’t get. It doesn’t hurt to get a better understanding of who did get the job, especially if it’s inside your organization. If you simply take that set back and then don’t work with that person to move forward, you may miss an opportunity to build a relationship that might bring benefit down that road. Those are just a couple examples.

I think in almost every setback you face, there’s an opportunity buried somewhere in there if you take it and look at it from a big picture view. We oftentimes miss out on opportunities because we get so focused on the negative parts of things instead of searching for the small wins. We focus on the big loss and to me, there’s an enormous amount of value squandered in trying to assess how you lost and beating yourself up over it. Maybe there was a little bit of misfortune, maybe you made a big mistake, but once the mistake is made, dwelling on it isn’t going to make anything better. All that does is depress you and rob you of precious time you could be using to figure out a way to utilize the hand you were dealt. Find the little opportunities that may still be sitting out there and you may be able to not take so big of a hit in the loss. So I’m curious what other people think. As I said earlier, I don’t want to discount the benefit of lessons learned but I do think that lessons learned are for a little bit later in the process. When you first take a hit, the immediate focus needs to be on finding the small opportunities that allow you to minimize the impact of that setback.

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