want to recover faster from disappointment?


by renita kalhorn


Remember the story of the Chinese farmer? When his horse ran away, the neighbors came around to commensurate, “So sorry to hear your horse  ran away.” And the farmer said, “Maybe, too soon to tell.”

The next day the horse came back, bringing seven wild horses with it, and the neighbors came around to say, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events.” And the farmer said, “Maybe, too soon to tell.” The next day, his son was riding one of the horses and was thrown and broke his leg. Once again, the neighbors commiserated saying, “Oh, dear that’s too bad.” And once again, the farmer said, “Maybe, too soon to tell.”

The following day, when the conscription officers came around to recruit men into the army, they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Of course, the neighbors had to chime in, “Isn’t that wonderful.” And the farmer (who, for some reason, kept answering the door when they came by) said, “Maybe, too soon to tell.”

Our modern lives work the same way — although we’re quick to judge whether an event is good or bad, fortune or misfortune, we never really know.

As a child, Spanx founder Sara Blakely dreamed of being a lawyer. She gave that up when she failed the LSAT twice, and instead went on to found a billion-dollar company. “Every terrible thing that happens to you always has a hidden gift and is leading you to something greater. I actually started writing them in my notebook. I’ve been keeping a notebook since the start of Spanx, and I always have it with me. So I probably have about 20 notebooks on my shelf. I log and keep track of all the terrible things that happened to me, because it’s almost become a game for me now. I like to see the gift and when it unfolds. It doesn’t always come right away.

“It’s almost become a game for me now:” If you want to be more resilient, this is the mindset to develop. I know, physical reality can be hard to ignore but — like the boy who was convinced there must be a pony hidden somewhere under all the manure — you can train yourself to look beyond unpromising circumstances and adopt an attitude of expectation: “I wonder what unexpected opportunity or learning is going to come out of this?”

Start by looking back at the events of your life that were a disappointment at the time. In my case, an opportunity to buy a two-bedroom Manhattan coop fell serendipitously into my lap. Within weeks, I had reached an agreement with the seller for an apartment on the 8th floor; however, the notoriously slow coop board took over 12 months to approve my application and by then, the seller had gotten a promotion at work and decided to stay in the apartment. I was crushed, I thought I wouldn’t be able to find another apartment as perfect as that one.

But, instead of concluding it wasn’t meant to be, I asked around and found someone on the 11th floor in the same building looking to sell. Because the board had rejected her two previous buyers, she was eager to close and I ended up paying the same price for an apartment that was superior in every way — better layout, nicer view, sunnier and quieter.

It’s become a powerful reference for me. Now, when I have any kind of unwanted outcome, I remind myself: “Chinese farmer. This is just the 8th floor apartment and something better is in store.”

Clients, strategic deals, funding, relationships…what’s your “8th floor apartment” story?

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