7 Steps to Enduring any Setback

Are you stuck in a rut? No offers? Finals around the corner? Getting chubby? Horrible Bonus? Our lives tend to emulate the peaks and troughs of the markets often seeming like it's never going to bottom out. So what do you do when you don't know what to do? When hope is but a distant memory?

At a truly low point in my life, I met someone on a plane. (and no we didn't live happily ever after) This person told me to read a little known book that truly changed my life. Thick Face Black Heart by Chin-Ning Chu. Yes, the book teaches you how to have a black heart! Mortified? Then don't read on....

In a nutshell the book talks about having thick skin while saving face. (meaning; not caring about what others think of you) The black heart essentially represents detachment and dispassion from senseless emotions.

For those that may or may not read the book, I've compiled a short summary of what truly empowered me to keep Enduring.

1. Give up Struggling
The first thing you need to do is to stop trying to correct the situation. If you lost your job or didn't get an offer, stop ruminating and digging around for validation.
Gather courage to accept the loss or hurt you may feel from all the hours you put into your work that seemingly yielded nothing
Face up to your fears of not landing another offer and start detecting new possibilites. Reach out to any Alumni on LinkedIn in the industry you are interested in, cold call all the firms you want to work for and go to all types of networking/meetup events. You'll be surprised how many people are actually willing to help.

2. Allow a Solution to make itself clear
After you've faced up to your legitimate fears, stop panicking and go with the flow. After I decided to stop trying too hard to impress the people I reached out to and just focused on letting the conversation take it's natural course, things started to happen. A cold contact on LinkedIn knew someone I had worked with over the summer and was willing to make the introduction to the person I needed him to. All this happened because we talked about the times in college where we juggled low wage jobs and school while trying to make ends meet. Since he was an Alumni, we had even stood on the same street looking wistfully at the people in Equinox gym who had the luxury to be there.The point is to make a connection and let it be genuine.

3. Work through your Agony & Grief
Until you are thoroughly able to experience your pain, it will be harder to deal with any new possibilities. This is not only true for breakups and emotional setbacks but for your career as well. Just like how you can't build a new relationship if you hold on to the ghost of your ex, you can't keep ruminating about your previous employer and why you didn't get to superday/full time offer/promotion. Drink, Cry, Scream. Sit with the pain for abit and you're more likely to get up stronger.
However, do not indulge in excess misery and keep your misfortune private to those who can truly support you. While it may be great to drink your sorrows away with fellow sufferers or engage in talk therapy for hours, this will actually prevent you from making forward momentum.

4. Let the Dark Night Pass
Anchor yourself with the spirit of Endurance. There's a quote I like in the book which says " We lose heart in a crisis if blinded by emotion"
Accept reality, recognize when it is time for action and when it is time to sit it out. Remember the old hymn?

5. Do Not Display Your Vulnerability
Do not give anyone the satisfaction of knowing that they have the power to hurt you. If you are familiar with the game of poker, you know that being a good poker player involves keeping a straight face. Have. Nerves. Of. Steel.

6. Inactivity to conquer Chaos
Now, this one was a little hard to swallow. In the middle of a quarter life crisis and I have to be inactive ? But resting and taking care of your neglected health can actually help gather and nurture your inner strength. It's hard not to feel anxious when you have no certainty about your future but detach yourself from the emotions and you'll be able to focus yourself.

7. Live your life as it were someone else's
I first thought this was a little new-agey but then I found it to bring tremendous freedom and relief. By thinking that your problems belong to someone else and that you are a temporary custodian (or fiduciary for all your PMG wannabes) you begin to fear no criticism stop agonizing over defeat.
Ever met a high energy person and made yourself more calm? Met a quiet somewhat passive person and upped your energy levels ? Well, the person who lives in our head is not our true self hence most of us are trapped by our sense of what and who we think we are.

"When we can calmly endure the unendurable, the opportunity for a better alternative surfaces and reveals itself"

Comments (8)

Nov 20, 2012 - 11:40pm

Things I learned in this post:
1. You're very verbose.
2. You Capitalize random Words.

tl;dr, but inspiration is never wasted. Only the strongest are left standing in the end.

Currently: future psychiatrist (med school =P) Previously: investor relations (top consulting firm), M&A consulting (Big 4), M&A banking (MM)
Nov 21, 2012 - 12:03am


Thank you for the post.

It is a tough job market, no question about it. The book you've mentioned (which I will check out) states one of truest things in life: not caring about what others think .

I liked this statement also:

the person who lives in our head is not our true self hence most of us are trapped by our sense of what and who we think we are.
Yes, the false sense of failure [I am a failure] can sometimes take over, which is dangerous. We are not our apparent failures or conquests.
Winners bring a bigger bag than you do. I have a degree in meritocracy.
Nov 21, 2012 - 12:09am

You are right Financier (are you my male counterpart ? )
Interestingly though, a false sense of conquest/victory often leads to that very sense of failure you described.

~~ Fortune favours the brave ~~
My WSO Blog
Nov 21, 2012 - 10:20am

finally let me give +1 for her thread. keep up!

I'm feeling like a star, you can't stop my shine---Ridin' Solo
Nov 21, 2012 - 11:14am
Here to learn and hopefully pass on some knowledge as well. SB if I helped.
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