on resilience, risk-taking, and growing from setbacks
Jane has had a tremendously successful career. Her resume is practically littered with the words “President”, “Director”, and “CEO”. She has contributed to the success of big and small businesses throughout her career. Her career started at Frito-Lay, and she went on to hold influential roles at Bimbo Bakeries, the Kraft Heinz Co., and Hostess. A number of years ago, Jane switched to use her business super powers to support smaller brands including Rudi’s Organic Bakery and ProYo. If that’s not enough, she also wrote a book (Sleep Your Way to the Top (and Other Myths about Business Success) and built an online career resource center (www.JaneKnows.com). This lady gets things done!
It would be really easy for someone like Jane to become affected by her success, but she is strikingly humble, open, and generous. I’ve had the privilege to hear her address groups and I’ve sat across the table from her a number of times. Every time, I have been floored by what a good listener she is and how willing she is to share from her own experiences to provide helpful insights.
Given the bio I just laid out, it may be surprising that most of the topics that Jane and I discussed during this particular conversation centered around failure. But, I can’t think of anyone better to learn from about resilience, risk-taking, and growing from setbacks than someone who has learned how to manage the difficult parts of career development to achieve great success.
Get ready folks. Below are a couple of powerful takeaways.
1. FOSTER A RESILIENT MINDSET
For someone that has had so many powerful positions and so much responsibility, I was surprised when she told me that she has no regrets about her career. How is that possible? I have regrets about what I ate for breakfast this morning!
She told me, “I made the best decisions I could based on the info I had at the time. I know more now.”
I want to take a moment and just acknowledge how powerful that statement is.
Jane’s antidote to feeling regret comes from her practical and constructive mindset. The way that she looks at her career and accomplishments has two powerful characteristics: 1) she is generous with herself, and 2) she is learning-oriented.
Let’s break that statement down:
“I made the best decision I could based on the info I had at the time…”
Notice how she gives herself the benefit of the doubt. She is kind to herself. Of course, those moments when things don’t turn out the way you want are painful for anybody, but she didn’t add to her own suffering by jumping to punishing herself. She retained her confidence in herself, her judgment, and her abilities.
So many of us high-achieving women try and perfect everything we do, even those things that have already happened. We replay what went down and fantasize about what we should have done and how much better that alternate fictional outcome would have been.
Hopefully, reading that last paragraph points out for all of us how futile those efforts are. I have learned that being hard on ourselves after a misstep or failure has the opposite outcome that we hope for. We hope that being hard on ourselves will ensure that we learn our lesson so we never make the same mistake again, but really, it just makes us more fearful of taking risks in the future.
In these moments, a helpful strategy is to treat ourselves like our own best friends. We would never talk to our best friends the way we talk to ourselves. We would comfort them, providing support and understanding. We can extend that same support to ourselves.
Jane models this concept really well when she gives herself credit for doing the best she could in the moment. The generosity she shows herself opens the door for the next characteristic of her mindset.
“…I know more now.”
Jane is oriented to learn from her experiences.
If you just stop at the first part – giving yourself a break – then you don’t grow from the experience and the pain of that failure was in vain.
Personal responsibility is critical — in the right measure. Too much and you make yourself miserable and allow your world to constrict around you to match the size of what you know you can accomplish perfectly. Too little personal responsibility and you can build a poor reputation for yourself since you fail to be accountable for your actions, and you miss out on opportunities to grow.
The immediate next step after comforting yourself from the pain of setbacks and failures is getting to work on understanding what you can do differently in the future, and then integrating those learnings.
2. GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH RISKS
I was recently privy to the info that came out of some focus groups that the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder did with executives at high growth companies. The focus of the study was to learn what companies are looking for in candidates so that the MBA program can turn out highly effective graduates.
One of the surprising insights that came from this study is that these coveted employers want candidates that have experience with failure. So many of us put an incredible amount of energy into racking up accomplishments and avoiding failure, but failure is an excellent teacher.
Jane’s powerful and positive mindset shows up here as well. She says, “The anticipated consequence is often far worse than the actual consequence you find with failure.”
Living in the headspace of anticipated failure keeps us from taking the types of leaps that are necessary for achieving the sort of success that Jane has had.
She does also recognize that this gets easier as you advance in your career. With more successes and failures to learn from, you just have more data points to gauge and mitigate risks.
If you don’t have decades of work experience under your belt, don’t worry. This is an opportunity for vicarious learning:
- Lean on mentors and sponsors that have seen more in their careers and are invested in your success. Trust Jane that the fear of the consequence is generally worse than the actual outcome, because people like her have learned that lesson first-hard.
- Practice. A couple of posts ago, Katica Roy told us that courage is a muscle – it gets stronger when exercised. I think the same can be said for resilience. The more we face risk and endure setbacks, the more likely we are to bounce back faster and easier.