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10 Hidden Blessings in Rejection, Losing, & Failure

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Rejection. Losing. Failure.

Nobody strives for them. No athlete sets out to lose, no entrepreneur’s goal is bankruptcy.

But as if an act of divine mercy, there’s positives to be found in the negatives. In fact, it’s almost gospel the extent we hear successful people preaching the value in failing and lessons in losing.

Many are familiar with Michael Jordan’s quote, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Denis Waitley said it well, “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”

Indeed, the mark of a successful person lies in their response to negative situations—in licking their wounds they never leave the battlefield, they turn their scars into strengths.

In approaching rejection, losing, and failure, here are 10 hidden blessings:

1. You’ll Clarify Your Passions.

Many of us struggle with decision making. Folks with creative energy typically have their hand in multiple pies. But even a jack-of-all-trades knows there’s a limit to how thin you can spread yourself.

Often, failure and losing result from diminished passion. You realise you weren’t as passionate about that project as first thought. The pruning effect is a positive. As you clear your plate a little, the things that are left are what really gets you excited, and you direct your energy toward them. Focused energy is when you’re most effective, failure gets rid of fluff.

2. You’ll Uncover New Skills.

Remember when George Bush nimbly dodged that shoe destined for his head? Nobody thought he had the skill to do that. And I suspect neither did he. Until that moment.

Facing challenges and enduring a loss causes us to gather up resources and develop skills beyond our arsenal. In cases of “hysterical strength,” where folks lift vehicles off someone trapped, it’s the negative situation that produces the surge of adrenaline and an act beyond one’s capability.

Negative experiences cause us to respond in ways beyond what we thought possible. The obstacle beckons to be overcome. In order to rise to the occasion, there needs to be an occasion.

3. You’ll Find Out Who Your Friends Are.

Take a spill and you’ll see who emerges out of the Facebook crowd to lift you up. Sure, everyone’s busy, but we make time for the things we value and care about. “I’m too busy” can be translated, “It’s not that important.”

Relationships are key in all areas of life. And they take a lot of work, a lot of time invested. You certainly don’t want to be investing in bad stock. Of course friendships aren’t to be boiled down to a shallow transaction, but unfortunately, some folks see them that way—a lot of taking without any giving. It’s these relationships that need severing. There’s no honour, or sense, in helping others when you’re hurting yourself.

Hitting rock bottom has a way of uncovering the healthy genuine relationships from the detrimental. You’ll want to keep investing in those who are nursing your wounds, and distancing yourself from the silent and nowhere to be seen.

4. You’ll Check Your Blind Spots.

It only takes one accident for a driver never to forget checking their blind spot again. A harsh way to learn, but some changes in behaviour only happen with such shocks to the system.

While there are habits and skills we haven’t yet acquired, failures remind us of habits and skills we do possess, but simply lazy in implementing. After suffering a robbery, you’ll never forget to lock the screen door again.

5. You’ll Burn Away Pride and Arrogance.

Nobody is immune to pride and arrogance. To say you’re beyond pride and arrogance is a little…well…prideful and arrogant. Losing is the glass of water for that bitter pill of pride. But that unpleasant process gives birth to humility. Which is perhaps the most attractive and profitable virtue anyone can possess.

As the well known proverb goes, pride goeth before the fall; rejection and loss exchanges pride for humility, and may be the saviour that prevents your fall.

6. You’ll Grow Elephant Skin.

The shins of Muay Thai fighters can break baseball bats. The micro-fractures from hours upon hours of kicking heavy bags are filled with calcium, resulting in abnormal bone density. It’s just as muscle fibres grow as a result of micro-tears in the gym.

The old adage rings true, it’s the pain that brings the gain. The healing of a fracture carries a gift. 101-advice for anyone stepping out to pursue their dream is prepare for rejection, criticism and haters. And with each punch thrown your way, you’ll realise that you can’t please everyone, and the impact will start to soften. You’ll even learn to bob and weave, realizing the issue lies more with them than with you.

 7. You’ll Never Wonder “What If?” Again.

The question of “what if?” can cause hours on end staring out the window. When that curiosity is pursued only to find you’ve boarded the wrong plane, failure is the blessing that pulls you right off. You’ll no longer be kept up at night wondering about that other option.

Curiosity can cripple our consciousness and distracts from the work we should be doing. But sometimes engaging your own nagging is the only way to silence it.

Seeing his father drink beer, a teenage Tony Robbins begged his mother to let him try. Not only did she let him try, she gave him a whole 6-pack, and wouldn’t let him leave until he drank every drop. Tony has never touched alcohol since. The taste of his own vomit may have something to do with that.

8. You’ll Finally Ask For Help.

Anyone with passion and ambition is tragically plagued with superhero-syndrome, which is both helpful, and harmful; particularly when the candle is burning at both ends, and you’re drifting toward burnout.

When the word “help” disappears from our vocabulary, it’s found when we crash and burn. We realise the skill of delegation is critical for our health and progress. We need to move away from viewing help negatively as a form of weakness, to positively—that our success is growing beyond our own capacity.

9. You’ll Go To The Drawing Board.

And you’ll engage in iteration. The process of reevaluating and refining, which produces a better end-result. As the saying goes, Why fix it if it ain’t broke? Some things need fixing, but reevaluation doesn’t happen if something doesn’t break.

No doubt one of the greatest human achievements: 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. The only individual in the world to accomplish that feat—64-year old Diana Nyad. She was on her fifth attempt, her first attempt back in 1978, and three other attempts from 2011 – 2012.

One major reason her last attempt was cut short was jellyfish stings that left her face face puffy and swollen. This time, she wore a full bodysuit, gloves, and a mask at night—when jellyfish rise to the surface.

She failed, went back to the drawing board, made iterations, and succeeded.

10. You’ll Appreciate Your Success.

Value and meaning become heightened in the face of difficulty. The greatest celebrations come from the toughest battles. You’ll realise the dream isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. And when the journey includes getting back on your feet and dusting yourself off, you’ll be more inclined to stop when you see roses, and express a little more gratitude and appreciation at the finish line.

Among the 14 “Eight-Thousanders” on earth, few recognise Kangchenjunga—while Everest is a household name. There’s only 262 meters separating the two mountains, but it’s the failures and deaths on Everest that make it the most respected and celebrated climb.

The bitterness of every failure adds sweetness to every victory.

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Laina Raveendran Greene, Co-Founder at Angels of Impact

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Here is our interview with Laina Raveendran Greene, Founder of GETIT Inc. and Co-Founder of Angels of Impact, an impact network focused on women social entrepreneurs helping to alleviate poverty. She is an entrepreneur and social impact investor, whose passion is female empowerment, and enabling women to be key agents to help alleviate poverty in Asia.

What makes you do what you do?
As a minority female Singaporean from relatively humble beginnings, I have never taken anything for granted. I learnt early on that I have to work doubly hard to overcome the “glass ceilings” but if I persevere, I can succeed. That is why I chose to focus on helping women-led social enterprises as I know how hard things are for them and I hope to make things a little easier for them.

How did you rise in the industry you are in? 
I rose by being courageous enough to push against the “glass ceiling” and seizing opportunities open to me no matter where they were. Early on, I realized I would have better opportunities overseas, so I worked in many countries, including Switzerland, USA, and Indonesia and used these opportunities to learn and open new avenues for myself. I now come back to Singapore with many more networks and skill sets.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
Yes, as a minority Singaporean, it may appear that I am not the usual leadership demography in Singapore. In my own way, however, I think I have amassed my own international accolades and work experience such as serving as the first Secretary General for the Asia Pacific Internet Association, CEO of one of the first few tech startups in Singapore in the early 90s, being on the International Steering Committee of the Global Telecommunication Women Network, and most recently selected as one of the 2nd cohort of Edmond Hillary Fellows in New Zealand.

I am now moving to the next phase of using these networks and skills to help other women to social enterprises, which seem to be exactly what I want to do in my next phase of life (after more than 25 years of global work experience).

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? 
It was harder in my younger days, as one of the few women in tech to find mentors but today I do.  Men were reluctant to mentor me for fear of rumors.

How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him? 
I found my mentor when I was taking an executive program at Stanford. He was one of the keynote speakers and I went to talk to him. Intrigued by my background, when I asked if he would mentor me, he said yes. I meet with him at regular intervals and I always ensure I have put his ideas to test before reporting back to him. I feel that I value his time if I do actually listen and act on his advice.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent? 
The key qualities I look for is an eagerness to learn and humility to be open to new ideas. Also, when asked to be a mentor, I usually give homework and see how proactive they are. Only the ones who do their homework, take the advice and act on it, are the ones I actively mentor.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously and unconsciously support diversity, as I see the importance of diversity on true innovation. You never get anything new, talking to like-minded people. It is always good to have different perspectives to create new ideas. I am also an active supporter having faced racial and gender discrimination in my life and want to ensure that others are given a better chance.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb? 
A great leader to me is one who has empathy and humility, and a genuine spirit of service. Today’s challenges such as climate change and social injustice, requires many players to apply their knowledge and skills to solve and have a sense of ownership in solving these issues

Advice for others?
The only advice I can think of is do what you are strongly passionate about. You need to persevere to succeed so it helps if you truly care about the endeavor you are working on.

If you’d like to get in touch with Laina Raveendran Greene, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laina/

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Callum Connects

Denise Morris Kipnis, Founder & Principal of ChangeFlow Consulting

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Denise Mossis Kipnis’ curiosity in people and the world, lead her to set up ChangeFlow Consulting.

What’s your story?
I’m driven by curiosity. Having been the only one in a room who looks like me for most of my life, I developed a curiosity about who stays, who leaves and who thrives in minority/majority situations including when and how connection and collaboration happen. I was a systems thinker long before I knew what that was, always asking why and so what; and seeing the pieces, the whole, and the places in between. So helping people and organisations move through the complexity of transformation feels natural to me.

What excites you most about your industry?
I see change and inclusion as two sides of the same thing; I don’t practice one without the other. Some people see change as death, as loss, as exhausting. And it can be. But I see in the work I do as an opportunity for something new or hidden to emerge. When an organisation understands that it is first a group of people, who themselves represent and belong to groups of people, and it begins to tackle what it would mean to understand and learn from all that talent, all that diversity, to have them all working for and not against the organisation, to truly unleash all that their people have to offer; that’s magic.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Change and inclusion are personal values as well as professional strengths. For me, living and working outside of the States was a bold experiment to see whether any of the stuff I’d learned about change and inclusion would work outside of the US. My husband and I targeted Asia specifically: it would be the greatest contrast, culturally speaking, for me; and a unique career springboard for him.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Although I’ve practiced in other cities, I am biased towards Singapore. In some ways it’s what Los Angeles is to the rest of the United States, a microcosm of sorts. The regional/global nature of it means that so many different nationalities and cultures are represented. As a result of this mix, you never know what you might get. In some situations, cultural dynamics are obvious, sometimes subdued. The variability is compelling.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.” Michael Rouan.

Who inspires you?
Often it’s a “what” not a “who.” I can get inspiration from a passage in a book or a situation in a movie, as well as a turn of a phrase or watching people interact. I often make the biggest connections between the various threads I’m working on when I’m sitting in someone else’s event.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’m honestly not blown away by much. Instead, I’m struck how circular things can be: ideas often come back around with a slightly different twist and I watch the way it shakes things loose for people. I recently sat through a workshop on Self as Instrument, and despite being thoroughly versed already, I learned something. In preparing for a panel on design thinking, I unearthed a new language to describe things.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
You’ve caught me at a good time. I’m sitting in appreciation and gratitude for all my experiences, because I wouldn’t be who I was today if all that has happened, didn’t. And yet one thing comes to mind: It wasn’t until I redesigned my website two years ago (shout out to Brew Creative!) that I realised I hadn’t made explicit agreements with my past clients as to what I could share publicly about our engagement, or whether I could use their logos in my promotional materials. In my business, confidentiality is so important, and yet I need to be able to talk about the work as reputation and experience leads to the next success, and so on. It turned out a lot of the contacts I had known had left the organisations where the work was done, so they couldn’t help at that point. So the practice I’m carrying forward is to get those agreements up front, and to make sure my relationships in client systems are broad as well as deep.

How do you unwind?
Science fiction, puzzles, wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Home. I don’t travel to relax, I travel to learn and explore.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Built to Change, by Ed Lawler and Chris Worley. To my knowledge, it’s the first pivot from advising organisations away from stability and toward dynamism, from strategic planning to strategizing as an action verb; to blow up the traditions and rigidity that impede organisations from developing change capability.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re taught that there are two kinds of people: those who see forests, and those who see trees. There is a third type, my type, and we see the ecosystem. Worms, climate, birds, the spaces in between. This is the perspective organisations need to be successful in solving complex problems and thriving in change.
ChangeFlow uniquely blends four disciplines (two of which are multi-disciplinary in themselves): organisation development, culture and inclusion, change management and project management.

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChangeFlowConsulting/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dmorriskipnis/
LinkedIn Company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/4862954/
Email: [email protected]
Website: http://www.changeflowconsulting.com

Twitter handle?
@ChangeFlow

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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