When the feeling of failure strikes, what’s your go to plan?

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Yesterday was a challenging day. After what I thought was a successful and engaging class, I received some feedback that was less positive than I expected. It was like going from a high to a freefall in terms of emotions very quickly, and I found myself quite surprised at my emotional reaction to it. Although I mentally understood that it’s part and parcel of the role as a coach that no class will be 100% perfect, I couldn’t help but feel affected.

I don’t like sitting around moping, so my reaction was to understand and treat it. The process led me to be reminded of a few lessons and new realizations. For those of you reading, I believe that as long as you’re the type of person that cares about making an impact, you’re going to wind up feeling the highs and lows that inevitably come.

We’re at the mercy of what we focus on

It wasn’t as if I had scathing feedback. In fact, the large majority of it was great! However, all it took was that one or two to throw me off. All the angst and emotions were due to me focusing on the negative, rather than the positive. Depending on your personality type, you can see this as a good thing as it’s being accountable. Alternatively, you can think of it as a negative. Perhaps it’s being overly obsessed with a ‘perfect score’, or taking things ‘too seriously’. Regardless, I had to be reminded that I was choosing to focus the negative. 

What to do

Accept the feedback and take action on it, then shift your focus. By putting action steps in place, you’d have satisfied the need to improve, and it frees your mind up to focus elsewhere. The less time you spend simmering in those emotions, the better. If you’re doing something right, shift your attention instead to those that you have managed to help, and remind yourself that you’re still creating value, and working on improving.

The state of your body influences your state of mind

Trust me when I say that training others is one of the most exhausting experiences, both physically and mentally. I’m usually part zombie by the time the day has ended! In such a state, it’s easy to forget that you’re not seeing things right and run a risk of interpreting things or reacting in the wrong way.

What to do

Besides the obvious advice to rest, in the event that you have to do something shortly after, there’s a couple of things that work for me. First is the 10 or 15 minute power nap. Even if you don’t ‘feel’ like napping due to emotions running wild, find a place to sit or lie down, close your eyes and set your timer. All you need to do is focus on your breathing and you’ll eventually calm down. Another thing that works is for me to replenish the energy quickly. I take a supplement called Creatine (which is meant for athletic performance), but I find a useful energy refill physically and mentally!

If it’s inevitable, shouldn’t we have emergency kits?

It’s a rational thought, that eventually we will all be whacked by a tide of failure-syndrome at some point. If we accept that, why can’t we prepare for it much like we do with real life physical disasters. Like having a first aid kit ready in case of emergency, we can prepare our own rituals to counter the bad times.

What to do

This would require you to go through trial and experimentation. Asides from the 2 things I mentioned earlier, I’ve got a couple more ‘go-to’ habits that usually help me snap back quickly. The first is an ‘open in case of emergency’ note that I wrote to myself, stored in Evernote. It’s simply a reminder of why I’ve chosen to do what I’m doing now, and serves to recalibrate me. I also have found that the best way for me to handle negative emotions is to learn. It usually starts as reading about what’s bothering me, which triggers the feeling of curiosity. Once I’m in that mode, I’d follow where that feeling leads me, which tends to end up at something random and interesting.

Having heroes help

It was only in college when I began to be exposed to people that would eventually influence some of the ways I think. The first (non-family) person that I recall having this effect would be Tony Robbins, and his book was my first taste of what it meant to read stuff besides the fantasy/sci-fi stuff I grew up with. Eventually this grew to include other authors and figures that I would borrow a little bit here and there from. When times get tough, returning to some of these ‘heroes’ helps me rediscover lessons that I might have forgotten.

What to do

If you already have one (or a few), great! If you don’t, it’s really simple. You can start by looking at subjects that interest you, and then thought leaders to check out. What I find helpful is also a wide scope of perspectives. For example, I appreciate the perspective on performance psychology from Tony Robbins, work and competition from Arnold Schwarzenegger, learning and experimentation from Tim Ferriss, philosophy from Ayn Rand, and many others.  To make it easier for reference, I also capture quotes or thoughts in a ‘Lessons’ note within Evernote.



It’s not that life will inevitably deal you a bad hand (although it will) but there will always be moments when we aren’t at our best. The more prepared we are for it, the faster we’ll be able to bounce back and continue on our journey. What are some of the ways you manage those feelings?

Soon MinWhen the feeling of failure strikes, what’s your go to plan?