How to come back stronger
You are going to get knocked out in the ring of life.
Whether and how you get back up is going to determine how successful you will be.
Maybe you’re having a hard time getting your first job, maybe you’re not getting the promotion or bonus you deserve. Or maybe, your relationship just fell apart.
Failing sucks. Falling down hurts.
I have had countless job rejections, got divorced at age 29, and lost money in the 2008 crash.
Here’s what I’ve learnt about getting back up and coming back stronger.
Is there something holding you back?
Is there something you want, that isn’t going your way?
The first step is to realize that you and only you get to decide how that obstacle will impact you.
Then promise yourself to turn that obstacle into an advantage and think BIG.
Most people make a simple mistake when they confront an obstacle.
They confuse what is really happening with their perception of it. As humans we often perceive events wrongly by attaching our emotions and false notions to them.
The next time something bad happens to you, promise to stay calm and rational. See the situation simply as a specific and discrete thing that has occurred. Do not build a whole chain of imaginary events from it.
When I didn’t make MD, it took a few weeks to recover, but I stepped back, understood what I had done wrong, planned my next steps and moved forward.
Instead, I could have just made irrational decisions and been angry, but what would that have done?
Here’s what I did differently the next year.
Be the solution:
I got this from Ryan Holiday’s book – the Obstacle is the Way. In the book, he has a story about George Clooney.
When George Clooney got to Hollywood, rather than trying to be like every other actor and focus on just selling his experience or acting skills, he focused on pitching himself as the perfect solution for the casting manager. He understood their problem and then positioned himself as the perfect solution.
The casting managers wanted someone dependable and trustworthy. Someone they could count on to deliver. That is how George Clooney positioned himself. He didn’t highlight his acting skill; he highlighted his ability to fix a problem for the casting manager.
Interestingly, Clayton Christensen also talked about this idea in his book, “How will you measure your Life”. He talked about the concept of “What Job are you being hired to do?” You can watch a short video on the concept here.
I read this book the next time I was trying to make MD. This time rather than pushing my boss to promote me, I took some time to understand what she needed, what her pain points were, what she was trying to do, what did she want.
What JOB had she hired me to do?
Here are some ideas on how to become the solution:
- Spend time understanding the industry or business you work in, what are the problems the industry is facing.
- Understand the people working there, what does their day-to-day look like. How can you be helpful to them? What value could you add?
- Acquire new skills focused on the job you want to do – some simple ideas: business writing, persuasion and public speaking. A lot more ideas here.
Most people want to go in through the closed front door. They want to attack the problem directly. Guess what, the front door is usually closed and very crowded.
Everyone else is also applying for IB jobs online, telling their bosses they want a raise or promotion or asking headhunters for buy side jobs.
What if you thought about the problem differently?
What if you were strategic?
What if you used the open backdoor? You could just walk right in.
This is what I have tried to do. Find an easier way in, a way where others aren’t looking.
That’s being strategic. Here are some ideas.
Rather than applying online, maybe you network with people in the group you are trying to join, send them samples of your work, and get referred in through people you know. Maybe you find a way to get an off-cycle internship to get some experience and gather contacts.
Rather than asking your boss for a raise or promotion directly, you take responsibility for a high profile project, maybe you find a way to build a new business for your firm, maybe you just bring in a new client or two and get noticed.
Rather than calling headhunters, maybe you started writing ideas on Value Investing Club and Seeking Alpha. Maybe you start sending hard copies of your ideas to hedge funds you admire, maybe you ask them for an unpaid internship to get your foot in the door.
Ask yourself what would a great person do with this situation.
What would my advice be to a friend who had this problem?
I remember in 2009 when the group that I was in was going through some changes. The financial crises was causing the group to shrink and I had a bad feeling that my career could be slowed down because of it. Not only had the crisis been stressful, but now thinking about how to find a new job in 2009 really stressed me out. I was very scared and very frustrated. I had just gotten re-married, and being unemployed with a wife at age 31 was depressing.
But I knew I had to shift my state of mind and beliefs quickly, or I was doomed. The trick to shifting your state is to ask better questions. So I asked myself, What’s great about having this problem?
I realized that having this problem would allow me to start with a blank slate, to seek out the best opportunities, to not be tied to a slowing business.
I then realized, how lucky I was to still have a job, my contacts and my skills. These insight were enough to break my pattern of frustration.
I found himself feeling grateful that I could share what I had learnt over the last ten years with others. So I started looking for new areas to be involved in and thought about other parts of the bank that could benefit from my skills.
Within a few weeks, I had a job in our London office. Something that I had dreamt of for the last few years, but didn’t have the guts to do.
Whenever bad things happen, don’t get lost in the noise.
You might feel like giving up. Don’t.
Stay with the problem.
I know you didn’t get that promotion.
I know you just got fired.
The interview didn’t go well.
It doesn’t matter. You will be just fine.
Focus on the present moment, remember this moment is not your life it’s just a moment in your LIFE!
What can you do today with what you have?
If you don’t take any action you will fail implicitly.
If you don’t deal with it, it won’t get better.
If you really want to achieve your dream, then keep attacking the problem.
You will succeed, you will achieve your goal, but you must persevere.
Remember anything is possible.
There are a lot of books that taught me how to be strategic and overcome obstacles, here are a few that are a must read:
Man’s Search for Meaning (Viktor Frankl) – lessons learnt from living in a Nazi concentration camp. This is a life-changing book.
Good Strategy Bad Strategy (Richard Rumelt) – this is a higher level book, with a lot of complex ideas on crafting and executing strategy in business.
How Will You Measure Your Life (Clayton Christensen) – this book will teach you about the obstacles that are worth over coming and the ones that aren’t.
The Obstacle is The Way (Ryan Holiday) – a great book that covers Stoic philosophy throughout history with lots of inspiring stories.
Go ahead, see what you’ve been missing.
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