Never Go Down In Flames

It seemed like a normal Labor Day weekend. A picnic and relaxation (whatever that means to an entrepreneur) were on the menu. Of all the potential disasters that I could have expected over a holiday weekend, I wasn’t prepared to face this one. I received a call from my out-of-town branch manager. My office was engulfed in flames, he said. Just when I didn’t think the news could get any worse, I learned that the fire originated in my office – the result of a defected machine. And my office was no cubicle in a generic cement building. It was a beautiful, old mansion, only recently recognized for it’s historical status. Along with my job, which was literally burning to the ground, a piece of history was forever lost.


I know what you must be thinking – that’s what insurance is for. Turns out, my insurance was canceled by my agent, who assumed that because my partnership arrangement had changed, so did my branches. It seemed as if there were no cards in my favor. Of course, I was under the assumption that my insurance was taken care of and failed to check my policy when I received my new binder. Like most people, I waited until I found myself in crisis mode to actually read it. Take it from me – this was a bad strategy, and one that inevitably cost me a lot of money and heartache. I felt like such a loser on too many levels to count. I had let so many people down, including myself.

I see this same devastation in candidates I work with everyday. Whether its an intern who is terrified to make a mistake in determining their first move or a loyal employee who has made every career decision by the book only to find himself on the receiving end of his last paycheck. So how do you follow the example of successful working men and women who used failure to their advantage? Look at Steven Spielberg. Getting rejected by the film department at the University of Southern California didn’t stop him from achieving his dream of adding countless big-grossing, critically acclaimed credits to his name, earning himself the reputation of best-known director and one of the wealthiest filmmakers in the world. It’s those people – who have it in them to overcome adversity – who make it out on top and become better people for it.



1. Take baby steps. I promise you, if you start by changing your beliefs and thinking differently, your career moves will become bolder and smarter, followed by bigger and better results.

2. Get emotional. That’s right. Letting your emotions out can be an empowering experience, and perhaps just the thing you need to turn things around. So get angry and take action rather than remaining stuck in your current state of unhappiness.

3. Don’t contribute to the status quo. Although it’s OK to get emotional, it’s not OK to let your past keep you down long-term. If you find yourself wallowing about a tragic situation, try taking a proactive approach and get your mind off it. Go for a walk, solve a math problem, or cook your favorite meal. The fact is, you can’t change the past. The best way to move on is by taking it one step at a time and channeling that anger in a positive way.

4. Credit yourself for trying. Embarrassment and rejection are very real fears, but if you let them keep you from putting yourself out there, you’ll never make it to the top and become the innovator you were meant to be.

5. Don’t view failure as a result. When faced with a bad situation, failure should not get the final word when it comes to your career future. View your unfortunate situation as a learning experience.

As a business owner, I am routinely presented with important legal documents. And you bet that I always make it a point to read them as soon as I can. The best part? I know that as soon as I finish those long, boring forms, a hot fudge sundae will be waiting for me!

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