Career Setback? President Obama Has Some Brilliant Advice for You
Following an incredibly rough 2016 presidential campaign and an unthinkable loss by Hillary Clinton, a lot of people are feeling down (and thinking of jumping ship). People are protesting and civil liberties groups are circling the wagons. Nobody really knows how the Trump administration is going impact our lives — at least not yet. Yet, President Barack Obama welcomed Trump to the White House, walked him through the job, and made it clear that he’s going to fulfill his duties to the end of his term in January.
He also made it clear that he expects everyone else to follow suit. Yes, there are lots of reasons to be absolutely horrified by the results of the election. And there are reasons to be wracked with anxiety because of it. But we’re all still here, and if you’re truly dismayed by Trump’s election, then taking care of your responsibilities is the first order of business.
That might mean being a parent, getting your ass to class if you’re a student, or showing up for your corporate job. That’s what President Obama had to say on the matter of Clinton’s loss, during a call organized by the Democratic National Committee for party supporters.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t hurt for what was an unexpected loss. Expected losses are hard enough; unexpected ones are just worse. And that’s okay,” The Huffington Post reported. “I was telling my team: You’re allowed to mope for a week and a half. Maybe two if you really need it. But after that, we’ve got to brush ourselves off and get back to work. We need to come together and focus on a way ahead.”
“Get back to work.”
“Get back to work” is the key here. Obama knows that a lot of people are feeling dejected, embarrassed, and frightened by what just took place. It was his own party that just suffered the humiliating loss to Trump, after all. But he’s also in a leadership position and knew exactly what to say.
You lost. Accept it, figure out what you did wrong, and get back out there. Beat ’em the next time.
That’s solid advice and echoes other great speeches from history. Theodore Roosevelt’s “man in the arena” parable comes to mind. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming,” Roosevelt said during a 1910 speech in France.
It’s a bit longer than that, but you get the point.
Most importantly, this concept doesn’t just apply to the election. People will eventually stop moping, and that sadness will turn to anger. That anger, though, is only useful if it’s used to guide action. Apply this to your own career. We’ve all suffered setbacks. Perhaps you didn’t get a promotion, or whiffed on an interview? You’re going to feel pretty bad. You’re going to want to curl up and disappear.
But you get over it eventually. From there, it’s time to “get back to work,” as Obama said.
The difficulty, of course, is in picking yourself up off the mat. When you’ve suffered a great setback, be it in a relationship, your career, or anything else, you may be inclined to assume the fetal position for a while. Like Obama said, that’s OK. Get it out of your system. But it’s absolutely imperative that you learn to recover — and the faster, the better.
This process is going to be different for everyone. Some people can simply handle strife better than others. But if you find yourself completely immobilized, you can take baby steps to getting back on track. If you were just fired, for example, how can you react?
Get up the next morning, hit the gym, pound some coffee, and start polishing that resume and tapping your network. While you’ll probably want to sleep until noon, wake up, and eat an entire Freschetta in one sitting, you know that’s not going to help. Get up, dust yourself off, and get back to work.
If you’re really struggling, try the “avalanche method.” Take things one step at a time — literally, one single task at a time — until you’ve strung together a series of successes. Wake up without hitting snooze. Get in the shower, or go to the gym. Don’t miss the bus — before you know it, you’re on track. You may still feel the sting in your heart, but you’re back up, taking life’s punches, and offering a few of your own.