Updated: Mar 23
I recently spoke to a group of business owners on how to adopt a growth mindset. It got me thinking about the idea of overcoming failure and actually bouncing back higher. In the wake of the layoffs that are occurring for so many, it felt like a good time to explore the idea of mindset as it relates to setbacks.
Postscript: I hesitated to publish this blog because this is a painful subject for me. The photo of the keys was from the day we signed the lease to build our restaurant. I captioned them 'The Keys to Our Future.' There was so much hope symbolically tied to them, but what I didn't know was just how difficult this journey was going to become. And it probably comes as no surprise to you, every decision I made that resulted in poor business results could be tied back to a mindset that was misaligned with my values, or tied to a limiting belief.
Let me back up a bit and share some of my thoughts about how we form the mindsets and beliefs that we do. Our brains are literal sponges when we're born, incapable of doing much at all except for adapting to the world we live in to get our needs met. In the process of doing this, we start to internalize a lot of messages we receive from our caregivers and, as we get older, the world around us. We make decisions about the kinds of people we want to be and these form the basis for our beliefs. In school, we're indoctrinated to become a good worker who shows up on time, does what he or she is asked to do (even at the expense of needed sleep or downtime) and rewarded accordingly.
But sometimes, what we've been taught and told to do doesn't align with our core values and we end up in a place where we need to deeply evaluate our circumstances and the decisions that got us there. I call this 'the reckoning.'
The reckoning -- When we end up in a place where our decisions are ultimately misaligned with our values, we must increase our awareness of what's out of alignment and rebuild from there.
This reckoning can come in many forms, but it almost always means a deep fracture to what we thought our lives were going to amount to. For me, there were several of these fractures along the way that worked to get me back to my essential self.
Chip Conley describes it in a way that I find interesting in this The Big Leap podcast. He says in the first half of our lives, our primary operating system is ego-driven. Somewhere in the early part of the second half of our lives, our primary operating system switches to be soul-driven. This profound change in operating systems often comes through challenges in our midlife that make the shift from one system to another. Some of us need to have a much bigger shake-up than others. I think I was someone who needed many significant shake-ups to make the shift stick.
It started with my divorce that came from a place of knowing I needed a change, but still very unsure what it would mean. Second, I was laid off from my career at Microsoft. This stripped me of an identity I had spent the better part of 20 years forming. And in about five years following that, I was selling a business at a loss that I had poured my entire self into just to come out the other end with the sense everything I have isn't enough to turn this business around.
However, I emerged from all of this with something priceless. In the throes of each of these events things felt hopeless, but I also could feel the crust of all of the beliefs I had laid down about how my life was going to be, coming off. These were hard blows to accept, but something deep inside me know that they were what I needed to shed the beliefs that no longer served me.
The period of time when it was became apparent that the restaurant was something I needed to let go of, my creativity exploded. Everywhere I looked, I saw a new idea for something creative that I wanted to do. So much so that I started an art school and was just getting it started right as the pandemic hit. But my art continued and I even sold a few pieces, but there was something so nourishing to my being that came from creativity. Someday I'll write a book called The Art of Letting Go that will chronical my journey through the artwork that I created. But that's for another day. Here are a few of the pieces I created along the way.
What does this have to do with mindset, particularly the mindset of rebound and rock bottom? When things don't go your way, you have a choice of how to see it. You can see it as a set back, like 'I'm figuring this out' or, you can look at it like a failure that sounds like 'I don't deserve this anyway.' Neither statement is more true than the other, it's just the opinion you form about the event. The event or thing that happened is just something that happened and you decide the meaning for it.
It's the opinion you form about it that makes the difference in what and how you react. You can decide to move forward or you can decide to let it define you.
Any endeavor worth doing will bring us to challenging places. The armor of what we believe will protect us will be chipped away and we'll find who we are in the center. And what's at the center of it is probably not the person we want others to believe we are, at least at first. It's an act of vulnerability and strength and it take courage and grit to find our way home and allow our true self to be seen.
I think about the process in steps that I call the four A's - Awareness, Appreciation, Aim and Action. I use this framework in my coaching, particularly for my clients who are looking to make a change, or for those clients who find themselves in a life-change that they didn't expect (like a layoff). This framework helps shape the conversations needed to gain clarity and clear out any limiting beliefs that are in the way. It's been amazing to see the transformation happen so quickly. If you think about this like aiming at a target, if we're off even just by a fraction, we won't land where we want to go. Coming out the other side of a challenging situation can be transformational if you work to see the opportunities and possibilities before you. Having a guide with you along this journey can illuminate paths you may not have known were there.
If this resonates with you, please take a moment to share this with your network. I've adopted the mindset that there are many people that I can help, but they haven't met me yet. If you know someone who's going through a change, share this with them too. They may appear to have it all figured out, but you just never know what might help them see things in a new light. I don't need a lot of people to feel like I have a tribe with me. Just a group of individuals who have come together, where the edges blur from where one person ends and the other begins though a shared common set of beliefs. Together we can navigate these big life shifts and learn from one another.