Having won and lost “many battles” over the last 25 years, both professionally and personally, I’d like to share some of the actions that helped me succeed and recover from setbacks. Just as a matter of background, throughout my career I have advised 15 Ministers of Finance in the Gulf Countries and the broader Middle East. I also advised Secretary of State Madeline Albright and coached more than 25,000 women entrepreneurs on fundraising. All this exposure came with lessons, pressure, and failures. Regardless of these, here below are several routines that helped me stay competitive and bounce back quickly when life “punched me in the face”.
Share your vulnerability with people you respect: The power of vulnerability is under-appreciated. When you are open about your losses, sadness, depression, and failures you are taking powerful steps towards success and self-affirmation. Leaders, take responsibility and talk about failures out loud. Open-up with people you trust and share your vulnerability and challenges. You may not know you need help so do it as frequently as possible. This creates trust building, partnership, and problem-solving opportunities. The person you open up to, will reciprocate and share similar lessons and experiences. Being comfortable about your weakness makes you stronger and helps you build the pain tolerance that ultimately makes you unbreakable.
Seek inspirations from your favorite leaders: Watch videos and read books about leaders that overcome failures and tough decision-making situations. This can be in sports, in business, in the military and in life. It does not matter. Apply these lessons and best practices to your daily decision making. If it is team performance you are after, I recommend watching Al-Pacino inspirational Every Given Sunday team’s talk during the darkest time of a football match. The video starts with… “we are in hell right now. In terms of books, my favorite action-oriented piece is “The Obstacle is the Way” by philosopher Ryan Holiday. I read this multiple times and learned that within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition and that sometimes we make the wrong choices to get to the right place. Read the book and think about progress not perfection.
Push yourself everyday: Be it physical, intellectual, or spiritual, push yourself and take baby steps every day to perform ordinary tasks extraordinarily well. As you do this, you will be able to see and quantify progress. Build a routine around these tasks, monitor progress as you continue to build positive momentum. You will see your mental fitness and psychological strength improve. For instance, I do an incremental number of push ups every day, I remove people that don’t add value or joy to my life, and I remove unnecessary sugar from my diet. Removing sugar from my diet gave me a higher energy level and greater brain functionality. I take a 1-minute cold shower every day and have a fresh squeezed pomegranate daily as they both help improve the mitochondria’s performance. This is our cell’s energy power plant and is also the “Holy Grail” of performance acceleration.
Provide positive guidance to your brain: Celebrate every small daily victory with a “yeah” reaction like sport’s champion when scoring a goal or an ace. And eliminate “the negative self talk” at all costs. In so doing you will send a positive message to your brain. Systematize this proactively and celebrate every step that brings positive outputs. If your mind takes you into darker thoughts, provide immediate vocal feedback saying out loud “not useful”. This will help your nervous systems (particularly the amygdala which is the brain primarily involved in emotion, memory, and the fight-or-flight response) internalize where to go and where not to go. Keep in mind that the amygdala even when things are good, she overworks trying to find trouble and keep the negative thoughts around us. When challenges get resolved, the amygdala keeps running negative scenarios about what could have gone wrong or could go wrong in the future. Be aware of that.
Persevere: Everyone underestimates perseverance. And my argument is…build a plan no matter how unclear it may be and work relentlessly to make it real. It takes a lot longer than one year to see results, so commit to the long term and pivot once market feedback steer you in a different direction. Also, as I said in a recent blog about quitting, it is essential to overcome the “sunk cost fallacy”. The sunk cost fallacy occurs when we feel that we have invested too much to quit. This mental trap causes us to stick with an awful plan even if it no longer serves us and the costs clearly outweigh the benefits. In other words, don’t be afraid to quit and as Angela Duckworth says in her great book Grit “let’s not get hung up on the idea that if you stick to anything, you’ll succeed. You must stick to the right things”.
Quoiting Steve Jobs on persevering here “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life”.
About the Creator
Andrea Zanon is an international sustainable development and empowerment specialist who has dedicated his life to reducing poverty, promoting sustainability and empowering ambitious people