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The ‘Success Illusion’ – Helping Youth Overcome Setbacks

The ‘Success Illusion’ – Helping Youth Overcome Setbacks

I recently ran a workshop in partnership with author and coach David Shindler on ‘Igniting Your Potential’. We delivered this for members of JCI Bradford (network of young leaders and entrepreneurs), to help them to understand how they have motivated themselves and accomplished their goals in their past and how best to do this in the future. We wanted to help inspire those in their 20’s and 30’s to think about how they can become their best, through understanding their talents.

A large part of this was also about how we conceptualise achievement and failures. My main focus was to convey the importance of seeing through the ‘mythologies of success’ that we create in our minds and to learn how to deal with problems as they inevitably arise along the way.

JCI Bradford workshop

*Photos courtesy of @theinstigatoer

There are some common myths about success that can actually make setbacks seem more profound and harder to handle.

We have certain hopes…we hope that:

  • One day there will suddenly be a big fanfare moment: ‘we’ve made it’, a big product idea, new contract & then lots more successes will present themselves – we can then relax
  • These successes will automatically make us more resilient so we can cope when things do sometimes go wrong and easily pick ourselves up again – this will be effortless

This illusion is partly due to our education and the importance placed on taking the ‘right’ subjects and securing a place at university and then into work. When I was growing up, I was repeatedly told (by my parents and teachers) that this would enable me to become set up for life – as long as I followed these set rules, I would effectively have got there and would be ‘sorted’. This is not a useful message.

Of course, life doesn’t work like this:

  • The more we aim to boost our potential and get ourselves out there and test the water, the more things will go wrong – perhaps there will more ‘failures’ than before – this is hard
  • ‘Failures’ happen in lots of guises. Success is no protector against this – often these are also factors outside of our control e.g.:  level of competition; timing

Building resilience and adaptability is key – that is why I am a passionate supporter of Enterprise Education in schools, FE & HE.

Perceiving ‘failures’:

  • It’s how we perceive our setbacks that really matters. We assume that others out there already just ‘have’ these qualities – they just know how to be successful and can also cope when things go wrong, they don’t even have to try (we’ve all made these comparisons with people we know in life & famous people) why can’t I deal better with failure? BUT it’s all in our heads

It is useful to remember these three key points:

1. Don’t take it personally, setbacks happen to everyone on the planet

2. No one is better at dealing with failure than you are – they just may have different strategies or don’t show how this affects them

3. ‘Failure’ – is an expected pitfall on the way to you achieving your dreams – living your passions and talents

Point No.3 is a key one and this message was reinforced by participants in my Twitter hashtag hour: #SpeakUp4Youth.

Next week: Part 2 – Becoming your own navigator and empowering yourself…

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