Adaptability, teachability, and fighting discouragement

confidence getting started risk Aug 10, 2022

Whenever you attempt something new, you're engaging in something risky. You don't know if it's going to fail, if it's going to work, or if it's going to be a major success. Obviously, we're all rooting for major successes when our new ventures begin, but most of the time, that's not how it works. And if our new ideas don't go as well as we hoped, we're likely to feel discouraged.

When discouragement strikes, how do you respond? What do you do to counteract its effect on what you're building?

If you're easily discouraged, and if you typically respond to discouragement by quitting instead of adapting, you're going to have a very hard time gaining traction in your life and in your online business. But if you're willing to treat your setbacks as teachable moments, you may actually find your setbacks are useful tools to help propel you forward.

This is how I'm learning to view my setbacks. Instead of framing them in my mind as "failures", I've started to say, "Great! Now I know what doesn't work." And I use that newly gained knowledge to refine what I focus on so I'm not wasting time. I also use my knowledge of what doesn't work to help teach and coach others. They can learn from my mistakes instead of repeating them.

Every major milestone or accomplishment in my adult life has come with setbacks and moments of discouragement that I needed to fight through. And every time I pressed on and refused to allow my discouragement to get the best of me, I reaped the rewards of what I was aiming for and working toward.

I remember fighting through discouragement when I was trying to date my wife. I was 18-years-old and I made it very clear that I liked her, but she was (wisely) trying to be cautious about who she dated. Sometimes it seemed to me like she was interested in me. Sometimes it didn't. When she told me she needed to study and couldn't hang out until afterward, I wasn't sure if that was completely true or if she was trying to brush me off. But thankfully, I persisted, and in less than a year we'll be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.

I remember fighting discouragement when I started my pastoral career. I can still see visions in my mind of the empty pews in the church I was called to lead and I wondered if they'd ever be filled with people. It took several years to see the kind of momentum and growth we were praying for to develop, but prayer and persistence paid off.

I remember fighting discouragement when I first started writing books. I believed the content was helpful, but I wasn't sure how to connect that content to actual readers. But I kept plugging away at writing and marketing, and before I knew it, my books found their audience.

The same has been true with podcasting, blogging, and other platform or business ventures. There have been seasons of success and seasons of discouragement along the way, but when I'm able to press on through the discouragement, I always learn new things that can only come with time. And any success I've experienced has come on the other side of discouragement.

In the midst of discouragement, I have learned to be adaptable. Sometimes my original plans were really close to being right, they just needed to be tweaked a little. And once the right adjustments were made, things really started to take off.

In the midst of discouragement, I have learned to be teachable. Setbacks foster humility. Setbacks can help keep your heart soft. Instead of allowing myself to be overcome with discouragement just because something didn't work out exactly like I wanted it to, I'm learning to treat my setbacks as teachable moments where I can invite others to speak into my circumstances with their wisdom.

How can you press on past your discouragement? What helps?

Get feedback from a like-minded community. I intentionally surround myself with people who love me, support me, and feel free to speak honestly with me. They point out my blindspots and help me brainstorm new ideas. My entrepreneurial friends also help me not to catastrophize my discouragements. Their counsel prevents me from thinking my setbacks are the end of the world.

Reframe the way you talk to yourself about your setbacks. The message you preach to your own heart matters. No one speaks to you as much as you do. I know people who constantly put themselves down, and they treat their setbacks like proof that they're failures. That isn't very helpful to do. What is helpful, however, is to reframe the way you're talking to yourself so you begin to understand the helpful way your setbacks might be setting you up for future success. Celebrate the fact that you're willing to take risks and try new things. Don't beat yourself up when you stumble upon an idea that doesn't work as well as you thought it would.

Don't wrap your sense of personal identity around your successes or failures. If your sense of worth or your perception of who you are always comes back to where you win and where you lose, you're going to drive yourself crazy. What you do and who you are at your core are very different things. If your sense of identity is tied to your platform or business, you'll grow arrogant when it hits a high point and mortified when it hits a low point. Don't torture yourself like that. Your value as a person has nothing to do with the popularity of what you produce.

Have faith that this is all part of a plan that leads to something better. As a person of faith, I have to confess that it helps me immensely to know that there's a bigger plan in motion than what I can orchestrate or figure out. I regularly experience moments of discouragement in life, in business, and in platform development, but because of my faith that God has a bigger plan for it all, those moments of discouragement don't need to turn into long seasons of discouragement. The sooner I remember that something better is going to come from the setbacks and trials I'm experiencing today, the faster my feelings of discouragement leave me.

So wherever you are in the process of building an online platform or message-based business, I hope you'll take this message to heart. Stay teachable. Become adaptable. And don't let discouragement rob you of joy while you're building something valuable.

-John

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