Like most people, I relish the feel-good stories of successful people who overcame setbacks to make it to the top. But what about when you have a complete career breakdown? I mean a time when you hit rock bottom and seriously begin to question whether you should even continue in your chosen field? How do you recover from that?
Here are three lessons from leaders who have been to the depths of failure and skyrocketed back to the top. You may have heard of them before, but it's important to remind yourself of their stories and words of wisdom when you need to find the motivation to reach for what you want, even when times are tough.
1. Don't doubt your skills.
There may be times when people question your ability and even ask that gut-punching question, "Maybe you aren't cut out for this?" Walt Disney is perhaps the classic example of this when the aspiring cartoonist was fired from his newspaper job for "not being creative." Ouch. That comment might have made many of us do an about-face in our careers. But of course, Disney didn't let others define who he was. As he later said, "We don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious... and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
In yoga we call this our "drishti," or focused gaze. We maintain this focus to help us concentrate, and maintain balance and intention during a practice. In life, we create this focus, so not to get distracted by outside noise and block outside messages that harm our aspirations. Set an intention at the beginning of each day that you return to at day's end. This gives you a measure of whether you stayed on track with what you set out to accomplish.
2. Find peace with yourself.
At your greatest depth, you may find that the only person who still has your back is you. That's why it's always important to be your own best supporter and motivator and to remember to treat yourself kindly like a good friend. Abraham Lincoln went through failed businesses and eight political defeats before he won the presidency. During his streak of defeats, he said about his situation: "I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me."
Often times, when we slow down and listed to our own thoughts, we wouldn't be our own best friend. Meditation or journaling are two ways we can become familiar with our internal dialogue and observe how we treat ourselves. If you set aside even five minutes in your day to either close your eyes and be silent, or write down of your thoughts, you may find that you self-sabotage areas of your life without intentionally doing it.
3. Always trust your gut.
Science has suggested that our guts or stomach region is like a second brain because it too contain millions of neurons. So often we know the right move to make, but we try to talk ourselves out of it. Steve Jobs arguably hit the bottom when he was famously kicked out of Apple, the company he founded. He didn't walk away from the industry he helped to revolutionize, but climbed his way back to take over the reins again years later. He trusted his instinct to keep at it.
In his now famous commencement address at Stanford University, Jobs said, "You have to trust in something. Your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path."
So often managers or supervisors assess us, however, many of us do not take the time to assess ourselves and whether we are moving in the direction. I believe in 30-day personal reviews where you can be truly honest with yourself and see where you need to spend more or less time in an area. You can also review where you make progress and feel good about the work you do because you have a clear focus on where you want to go.
Of course, no one ever wants to experience the depths of failure as these people, no matter how inspiring their comeback story is. Still, there will be times when you may feel you have hit bottom, or close to it, and it's during those moments when you need to step back and realize that with the right attitude and some words of wisdom from people who've been there that things will get better and may possibly change your life in a positive way.