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What to Do After You’ve Lost the “Big One”

By Daniel R. Castro

So you’ve lost the “big one”—the deal that was supposed to catapult your career to a new level, separate you from your peers, make you Vice President of your company, or maybe even pay off your mortgage. But the “big one” got away. Now what?

When the rug gets pulled out from under you, the usual reaction is shock and disbelief. After all, you have been working on this project for what seems like forever and thought everything was perfect. Then, suddenly, your client didn’t have the budget or a competitor underbid you. After the shock and disbelief wore off, you became angry, depressed, and disillusioned. Don’t worry; that’s normal.

The real challenge comes after you cycle through these emotions. You need to decide your next step. Only you can decide whether you are going to bounce back from your loss or spiral downward into more failure and depression.

Now is the time to make these three critical decisions: (1) What to focus on; (2) How to persevere; and (3) What to believe and expect. These three choices can make the difference between seeing all your professional dreams coming true and being stuck in a dead-end job.

1. Take Control of Your Choices: You’ve surely heard the old saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” This is sage advice, as long as you determine why you failed the first time and make the necessary adjustments. For example, consider what Walt Disney experienced. Most people don’t know that Walt Disney suffered a great business defeat early in his career. Walt Disney had created a cartoon character called “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.” He signed a contract with Universal Studios to create animated short films about Oswald that would be shown before the main feature film at theaters. The short films enjoyed great success, but in his youth and naivete, Walt did not realize that he had signed away the rights to the character to Universal. The movie studio did not renew his contract, and then announced that they owned the exclusive rights to produce films using “Oswald The Lucky Rabbit.”

Walt Disney decided to start over from scratch. Instead of sulking in his misery, instead of turning bitter, instead of filing a lawsuit, Walt focused on what he had left—his gifts, talents, and abilities—and his incredible imagination. Drawing inspiration from his miserable surroundings—a mouse and rat-infested garage—Walt created a cute little mouse character that he named “Mickey Mouse.” And the rest, as they say, is history!          

  What can you learn from Walt Disney? When someone or something pulls the rug out from underneath you:

  • Don’t look backward at what “could have been.”

  • Don’t dwell on your anger or it will consume all your creative energy and brain cells. You need those to come up with your next move.

  • Avoid litigation if at all possible. The only people who get rich in litigation are the attorneys.

Look to the future. Focus on the gifts, talents and resources you have left. Even if you made a huge business mistake, “they” may take away your office, your status, and your income, but they can’t take away your determination to succeed, your inherent abilities, your intelligence, or your creativity. Choose to focus on the positive and go find the next professional challenge.

2. Have Creative, not Blind, Persistence: Persistence in pursuit of your goal is a good thing—as long as it’s the right kind or persistence. Blind persistence is lunacy. Creative persistence is genius. Persevering against the odds doesn’t mean blindly ignoring the road signs. If something isn’t working for you, change it.

Soichiro Honda is a classic example of creative persistence in action. In 1945, Soichiro was making piston rings at a small plant in Japan. When the plant and the city were destroyed by a U.S. air raid, Soichiro collected the metal from left over military vehicles and airplanes and moved his plant to a new location. However, the end of the war brought an end to demand for piston rings, and his business failed. He survived the war, but could not survive the end of the war.

At the end of World War II, Tokyo and most industrial cities had been destroyed. Gasoline was rationed and hard to find, so he came up with an idea. In 1946, he began to sell regular bicycles with installed small, military surplus engines on them. When his supply of surplus engines ran out, he began making his own. He was short on capital, so he wrote letters to bicycle shop owners throughout Japan , explaining his idea to make motorbikes and asking them to invest. A few did, so he started manufacturing his own engines and motorbikes.

The first motorbikes he made were too big and bulky and didn’t sell well. But Soichiro listened to his customers’ feedback and adjusted accordingly. He stripped his motorbike down and made it much lighter. His new design won the Emperor’s Award, and in time, this little motorbike captured 60% of the Japanese market. Soichiro even began exporting them to Taiwan. In 1948, Soichiro established the Honda Motor Company, which is one of the biggest manufacturers of cars and motorcycles in the world today.

What can you learn from Soichiro Honda? True survivors know the difference between blind persistence and creative persistence. Make sure you don’t just persist with blinders on, be open to the feedback you hear, and make the necessary changes to lead you to success.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Find people who are already succeeding at what you want to do and learn their secrets. Read books or articles written about them and figure out what made them so successful. What path did they take? What did they learn from their successes and failures? Most famous business leaders developed a method or system to train their executives, management team, and their successors. Learn it, study it, and duplicate it. Then improve upon it to make it uniquely yours.

3. Take Control of Your Beliefs and Expectations: The decisions you make from here are largely dependant on your expectations of the world and of yourself. What you are expecting determines whether you will or will not be able to see the possibilities all around you. Those who survive and prosper in the midst of adversity are able to see and hear opportunities that no one else can. Make sure you can, too.

Psychologists and behavioral scientists have long-known that we tend to see what we’re expecting to see and filter out what we’re not expecting to see. For example, if you are looking for the red copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, you are not likely to see the blue copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn sitting right there on the bookshelf in front of you. Why? Your mind creates a model of the universe based on your expectations, and you tend to make decisions based on that model. What you are expecting literally determines what you can and cannot see.

So what should you expect from this point forward? Expect to write the final chapter in the book of your life the way you want it written. Don’t let someone else write it for you. Expect to win—in the end. Three days after Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer, he boldly declared, “I want you all to know that I intend to beat this disease, and further, I intend to ride again as a professional cyclist.” Was he a prophet? Did he receive a message in a dream? Did he know something the rest of the world didn’t? The answer is none of the above. He truly believed he could make a come-back—and he did. His beliefs and expectations allowed him to see possibilities that others could not see. Likewise, your beliefs and expectations literally determine whether you will be able to see the possibilities that exist all around you from this point forward.

The Future is Yours: When you lose “the big one,” take active, conscious control of your focus, your perseverance, and your beliefs and expectations and you will take control of your future. Reflect on what went wrong and make the necessary changes to prevent it from happening in the future. Maintain your belief that you will be successful and expect your ideal end result. If you see yourself on the 100th floor in a corner office, you’ll get there. If you expect your one-employee company will be worldwide one day, it will. Sharpen your focus, harness your creative persistence, maintain your beliefs, set your expectations, and enjoy the positive results.    

Read other articles and learn more about Daniel R. Castro.

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