“What goes up, must come down.” That’s what Blood, Sweat and Tears said, and when the decrees of pop music seem to be in agreement with the laws of physics, then it must be true.
Unfortunately, this does leave us in a somewhat uncomfortable position when it comes to charting careers. As much as we’d like to think that our working lives will be one long ascent, we have been given every indication that this won’t be the case.
Successful people are often quick to point out that their lives have been full of ups and downs, and while their valleys might look like peaks to the rest of us, sometimes it’s genuinely helpful to remember that a career path can be a mighty bumpy road for almost everyone.
Note that “almost everyone.” Apparently Tony Bennett has had a different experience. “I’ve been so fortunate because I never really had ups and downs as far as my career. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’ve been sold out all over the world,” he said.
But the rest of us might as well try to adjust to the fact that our lives will, from time to time, resemble roller coasters. The big difference is that with roller coasters you can see the climbs and plunges coming, but in life you usually can’t. Even in these challenging economic times, how many of the laid-off or downsized counted on their jobs being on the chopping block?
We’re frequently advised to make the most of the downturns we face, to use them as opportunities to clarify our values and goals, or to strike out in new directions. I personally know someone who didn’t get the radio job he wanted and ended up a very successful cartoonist instead, as well as a woman who was laid off from her state job and founded a thriving business as a chocolatier.
Perhaps one of the most important things to do when your luck takes a turn for the worse is take a look at how you react. Say you didn’t get a job you really wanted. Do you stay focused on the particulars of the situation, and analyze what the successful candidate brought to the table that you didn’t? Or do you go global and beat yourself up for being born to lose? Maybe you start off with one reaction, and gradually move to the other.
It’s important to be honest with yourself about your emotional reaction to failure and setbacks, but it’s equally important to not let your reaction pull you further back.
See how you can work with your response to disappointments, and make it into a more effective mechanism for you. It might not be easy, but it’s probably simpler than figuring out how to copy Tony Bennett’s appeal.
by Danielle Dresden