Creating Success in the Face of Adversity

We’ve all been there in every single stage of our career. Forgetting to study one of the chapters before your chemistry exam in high school. Going into your organic chemistry lab without preparing beforehand. Staying out a little too late before a medical school exam that you thought was going to be easy. Not matching at your first choice residency. Getting rejected on a job prospect. Getting paid less than a guy that you had to convince your administration to hire?

You probably get the point.

The guy who does everything by the book never gets a break.

Sometimes it seems like we never get a break. Thinking about the negative outcomes and situations that could have or should have gone in our favor impacts our psyche. Believe it or not, many of our shortcomings probably aren’t even in our control, yet these are the events in our lives that are most difficult to shed.

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I’m a strong believer in turning misfortune into success. I probably spent the last fourteen years hearing variations of this blasé quip before I actually started believing it—yes, I am a very slow learner. We see and hear this all the time. Look at @PatFlynn. @JohnChow. These are guys that fell flat on their butts and were able to build up empires of financial success and balanced lifestyle.  Sure, these are the mega-success stories. Your story doesn’t have to be in the front headlines to qualify as a success.

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I had a classmate who did everything by the book in order to become a Dermatologist—this specialty is one of the most competitive areas in medicine—but still couldn’t match into a residency. I don’t remember how many times she ended up applying but she is now a successful Dermatologist. If you want it badly enough, you can [probably] make it happen.

We can all develop our own success stories.  All it takes is the desire to find success. Really. If you want it badly enough, you can get there. Fortunately there is no shortage of failures in life to learn from. Work at it long enough and you might find your own strategy to be a winner. Here’s mine:


Something bad happens. Let’s say you get rejected from Harvard. Okay, you are a slow learner, so by the time you actually figure out how to reflect on this failure, you’ve already been rejected twice. Hey, I’ve seen it happen.

Look, you worked hard and yet you still failed. The world is still against you. If only you can conquer that demon fighting you every step of the way. Blow out some steam.


Why are you upset with this instance of failure? Why did you want go to Harvard so badly anyway? Ego? Fame? Fortune? How would your life be different if you had succeeded?  Would your life be complete? Would that have guaranteed that you would have met your future wife? Is this the next step in your game plan for a successful career? Knowing why the setback was disappointing can help you figure out the next step.


Flip the switch. The failure now becomes a challenge. What do you truly wish to accomplish? It may take numerous attempts to even figure out what you want in life. Then figure out what to do to reach that goal. Perhaps Harvard wasn’t the best idea if you hoped to build up a nest egg to quit your job by age 26 to roam the world. Going into a fast-paced IT environment would have probably  been the better option. Regroup. Make a new game plan and go for it. Maybe there is something that you’re really good at?


You’re going to keep losing. Don’t forget about that. However, at some point you will get in a win. That is what counts. Delayed gratification makes the victory so much sweeter. You started with being a Harvard reject. Then you transitioned as an IT consultant while starting your own sprocket business in the evenings.  You find your niche in building sprockets for water heaters. You sell your patent to the plumbing industry and become an industry giant overnight. Easy peasy, right?

The moral of the story is as simple as how you make it to be—if you are hungry enough in this world, you will be fed.

What was the last time you made success out of failure?

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