Temporary Setbacks or Permanent Failure?

Michael A. Verdicchio asked:


Nearly thirty years ago, I went rock climbing for the first time with a group in New Mexico. It sounded exciting and challenging! After a day and a half of training, which they called, “bouldering,” we were ready to climb! Then reality set in.

When climbing a mountain, you just cannot go from the bottom to the top in five easy steps! There are obstacles and there are set backs. You also make mistakes. And, even though I was tied to a rope, and could not fall off the mountain, at times it was scary.

Anyone who has ever climbed knows that you can easily end up where there is no place to go, or so it seems. You’re stuck. But quitting is not an option.

You cannot just stand there and feel sorry for yourself. It is pointless to wonder what you did wrong that got you into such a predicament. You cannot go back down, so you are forced to become solution minded. In other words, you find a way to get to the top. You figure out a way to succeed.

I held on for dear life that day, on my first climb, stuck about three quarters of the way to the top. It seemed that there was no place to go, and nowhere to put my hands or feet so that I could continue upward. But after a few minutes had passed and I realized that I had to do something, I began to look again for a solution.

I then noticed a rock sticking out, that I might be able to grab with my hands and pull myself up to where I could have a small foothold. I called to the instructor at the top and asked him if that rock would hold my weight if I pulled myself up. I can still remember his answer, “I don’t know. Why don’t you try it and see?”

In life we many times feel, “stuck.” We wonder how we got into the situation that we are presently in. It is in those times that we need to be careful about how we define it. Have we failed, or, is it just a setback?

W. Clement Stone once said, “Defeat is never the same as failure unless and until it has been interpreted as such.”

Setbacks, adversity, or being stuck are never an indication that you are a failure unless you decide that those things define your life as a failure. For people looking for an excuse to be a failure, there are always plenty to choose from.

But if you want your life to be successful, setbacks, adversity and being stuck are simply stepping-stones to your success. Success minded people accept those kinds of things for what they really are. They know that for them, they are only temporary.

There are countless stories of men and women who faced setbacks and became very successful. Perhaps one of the most known is that of Abraham Lincoln. A number of “lists” that you can find on the internet are exaggerated, and some of the items are misleading and untrue. But Abe did indeed face a number of hard times and setbacks. Here are a few that I have found to be accurate.

His mother died when he was nine. He was co-owner of a general store in Illinois that went out of business. The girl he loved and wanted to marry, Ann Rutledge, died.

He failed in his first attempt to obtain political office for the Illinois state legislature. He did not get the land officer position that he wanted.

In two separate election years, he did not get elected to the United States Senate. He didn’t get enough votes to be his party’s nomination for Vice-President of the United States.

But, he was elected president of the United States in 1860 and in 1864.

It doesn’t matter what others think or say about you. How you define your own life and circumstances every day is very important. Define all your setbacks as simply temporary and refuse to even use the word “failure.”

By the way, I did grab onto that rock, and when I did, it moved, just a little! I then decided to grab it again. I realized that the worst that could happen was that it would come out and it might bang me up a little. I knew I couldn’t fall off the mountain because of the rope, so I pulled on that rock again!

It moved, just a little, but it held me as I pulled myself to the next foothold. Several minutes later, I was at the top. I informed the instructor that the rock sticking out a number of feet below us was loose. “Yes,” he said quietly, “I noticed that on my way up earlier.”



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