How do you overcome defeats?

Somehow I have this picture in my head that I want to rub my fingers together as if gesturing that I am holding an old cigar, and making a joke about the word “the feet”….. Ah, that might be one clue to the answers for the question we are exploring.  How do you handle what seems like total defeat?  We have all had those moments that life just came at us and we are left with her tire tracks on our heart.  Some of us are strong, feisty, resiliant and we rise up again, ready for the next round.  And some people never come back, remain shy, cautious and hidden in the shadows.  Why are these reactions so different, and what is inside of us to cause us to react the way we do?

I have to be honest here, and tell you that as we neared the finish line with the voting round of the fed ex small business grant contest we felt great.  we compared our vote numbers to our competitors, and we were ahead.  Confidence is sometimes a false thing.  Apparently there were some light years ahead of us.  And when news came that we did not make it to the finals we were both crushed, then we had a strong sense of how public and how exposed we were to this perceived failure.  Left to myself there was a period of licking my wounds, grieving this loss, and trying to find my footing again.  I lost my creative drive (which is essential to the type of business we have), and perhaps even overstretched and verbalized the loss on social media.


I cant live there.  We began to assess where we were, how much we have acomplished, and how far we have come building this business.  We were really shocked with joy to realize that our total income for 2016 for the business was double that of 2015, and 3 times what we earned in 2015…. We have a wonderful customer base, and super supportive retailers stocking our goods.  We have always worked hard for what God has given us, and we are thankful for each and every step along the way.

This was not our first publicly visible failure.  We were initially soul crushed when Whole Foods at the last minute changed the game plan, and we were not in their new Rocky River store.  But we see now how that was a blessing, more than a failure.  Some merchants require lots of hands on, and get a bit consuming.  We still have the freedom to build our brand and our business without such attachments.

Everything we experience can bring results that are unique, and it all depends on how we respond.  So here is my quick check list of thoughts that I evaluate defeat with:

  • Have i given my 100%, and done all i could do to bring this to fruition?
  • Is there a lesson to learn in this time?  Something i could apply to the next step or next endeavor?
  • Will this setback or loss impact  my business, that is to say the day to day activity of the business?
  • Will this opportunity lost affect the long term of the business?

If i answered yes to any of these questions it is worth spending a few minutes analyzing more:

  • If i have done everything in my capacity to work on this project and given it my all then I can say that I held nothing back, and the decision was beyond my capacity to fulfill.  There is a healthy relief knowing all i could do was done. If you can say that about yourself then you did well.  Give yourself that pat on the back for working hard, for the strong and valiant effort given.  And realize that you are rare – most people would not go to that extreme to see something through.  You are a fighter, a warrior.  You did well.
  • Lessons learned? Always, there is always a lesson to learn from any transition, or setback.  Sometimes it is simply to realize your efforts were great, but the long term outcome was not in your favor.  Honestly we have to realize that sometimes things are biased, and we had a snow ball’s chance at the win.  In other cases what looked like a win was really not so much because strings attached would have consumed all the energy that it would not have been worth the effort.  Take the lessons as gifts, tools, methods of moving forward with skill and knowledge.
  • Will the opportunity lost have a great impact on the overall business?  I have to tell you that i dont permit contests and such to have a significant impact on my business.  Day to day operations continue – we continue to produce, market, and sell our goods…. and we continue to work hard at building our market, customer base, and brand.

So how do you go on – what do you tell yourself?

  1. I look at our business  ledger – and i find great encouragement knowing that each year for the past 7 we have at least doubled our income annually.  We are growing.  We are growing completely debt free, and committed to remain so.
  2. We have a wonderful customer base that love our products, and we are fortunate to have such a great group of supporters.
  3. I look at our partnership – Steve and I have been married for nearly 37 years – we are committed to each other, and the endeavor of our business is no different.  We throw our heart and soul into the work together.  The history of our relationship is one of strength, commitment, determination to succeed and to love each other while doing so.
  4. Lay aside any regrets – Knowing we gave it our heart and soul, and there was nothing further we could do to affect this project we lay it down with no regrets.  We worked hard, we will be ok.
  5. Do the next thing – there is always something in the pipeline – move on to it.  In my case the grieving process is assuaged with time spent painting my donation scarf for Art Fur Animals, and Vermilion in Bloom.  There is something wonderful about the creative process that brings new life to my mind, heart and soul.  We will be fine.

Experience has told us that defeats and disappointments will come, but we cant live there.  Life is far too short to be side tracked by these things.  We have too much more to give, and so much more to accomplish.  Life itself ebbs and flows.  We will do the same.