So, I get a call from a reader of this column ...
"You always write about optimism, so, you must have never really suffered a major disappointment."
Let me begin with this ... If you want to avoid disappointment, don't do anything. Do not try to live your dreams. Stop reaching for the stars. Never build a business or try to compete. Don't apply for the promotion. Refuse to take a risk. And, above all ... never fall in love. If you want to avoid disappointment, it's easy, just be the anti-Nike and "Just 'Don't' Do It!" Problem solved, right? Not hardly.
The best of life is available for those who go for it
The rewards will always go to those who risk, and when you risk, you will often be disappointed. I've suffered more emotionally crushing moments in my life than I can recount. It's all part of the game. You win some; you lose some; and some are rained out. Some disappointments are minor, and you move on quickly, and some stay with you for a very long time. So, yes, I've suffered great disappointment, while also enjoying great success. You can't have one without the other.
By coincidence, the day I got the call from the reader about disappointment, I personally suffered a major disappointment
About an hour before the call, I suffered a business setback that was stunning. It was something I didn't expect, and the disappointment likely will linger for a very long time. I was pursuing an opportunity that I was convinced was a sure thing and had been working on it for months. I felt assured by the client they were eager to take advantage of my proposal. It was a great program and there was every reason the group I was courting should have said, "Yes." When I was told "No," it was like a punch to my gut. I was given no reason for the refusal other than "we just think we'll pass at this time." When I came home from the meeting with my tail between my legs, my wife consoled me for a few minutes then said, "Get on the tractor and plow the driveway" ... and I did.
Snow doesn't stop falling because I'm disappointed
Life goes on. I had to pick myself up off the floor, get on the tractor and get moving. For me, the tractor is a great place to plan (plow or plant) my next move.
So, you are disappointed? Join the club. You are not alone. You were laid off from your company or your spouse left you. Your team didn't win the big game and your diet isn't working as fast as you'd like. Your son or daughter was cut from the team or didn't get into the college you'd hoped. There are different levels of disappointments, and different people feel them to different degrees. But the fact is that it is unavoidable. We all suffer disappointment, but here's the key. When disappointment knocks you flat on your back ...
All that matters is that you get back up again
It is all a matter of personal resilience. As my dad always said to me, "You gotta keep on keepin' on."
I was deeply disappointed in the morning, but by 3 p.m. the same day, I was on the tractor planning my next move. The pain of the morning was eclipsed by the optimism of the afternoon. I was still hurting and the disappointment had not lessened, but I made a choice to leave my unfulfilled dream of the morning behind and embrace the future of my next idea. I made the choice to move on.
My first book, "Playing with the Enemy," I’ll proudly share, is a bestseller, critically-acclaimed and an award-winner. I was turned down by 75 publishers before Savas Beatie LLC, a West Coast publisher, decided that all the East Coast literary minds were wrong. “Playing with the Enemy” is now in development to be made into a major motion picture! Had I given up after the disappointments from publishers 1 through 75 saying no, I would have never received a publishing contract from number 76!
Always fish with more than one pole
The more baited hooks you have in the water at one time, the more chances you have of landing the big fish. Be creative. Have more than one idea, project or proposal. Pursue more than one job. Apply to multiple schools. Never rely on a single outcome and never allow the disappointment of one day stop you from taking a chance on the next. Keep going. Keep trying, and never give up.
There are only two things you can control in life
You can't control the weather ... or how others feel about you ... or the decisions others make that influence your future. You can control your attitude, and your attitude will drive how you respond to the inevitable disappointments ... and you also can control your effort. Be optimistic and work hard. Next time, you won't be disappointed.