(Note: This is based on one of the prompts from Robert S. Kaplan’s book What You’re Really Meant to Do.)
The world isn’t always fair, right? That’s the message we learn as we get older and find that everyone’s actions don’t always revolve around us and aren’t geared solely toward providing for our own happiness. As parents, we try and teach our kids that someone else’s success is not a slight on you, necessarily, it’s just because they did something that helped them get ahead. Hopefully, we’re able to couple that with lessons about what they can do differently next time that will help them secure the same advantage or promotions.
So how do you handle an instance where you feel – rightly or wrongly – you’ve been slighted? More specifically, how have I handled times in my professional life where feel I’ve suffered a real or perceived injustice? There are usually stages to my emotions:
Disappointment: Let’s just be honest and admit that the first thing I (and I’m guessing many other people) feel when I perceive I’ve been wronged is that I’m bummed. That recognition or whatever it is should have been mine and I’m disappointed it went to someone else. Or I’m upset because something went wrong that I’m being held responsible for when it wasn’t my fault.
The best remedy for this, at least for me, is one of two things: Either go for a walk and clear my head or dig into writing something, which has roughly the same effect.
Acceptance: OK, so I didn’t get the promotion I was hoping for or the job I wanted. But I still have (fill in the blank) so am still doing alright. This mindset is the direct result of the above described actions, the perspective coming from getting outside my own head for a bit and realizing that this wasn’t a personal slight against me but instead the result of someone else’s efforts. Just as I would tell my kids, the world isn’t against me, it’s just not opening this particular door for one or more reasons.
Planning: Fine, I didn’t get X but someone else did. I no longer see this as a direct affront to myself and my skills but as a recognition of someone else’s hard work. So now my mind turns to figuring out how they were able to get that recognition and what I can do to replicate it for myself. Even if it’s not related to that directly, what areas can I grow in? What can I do differently? How can I further attempt to differentiate myself?
Basically I’m looking at this point for things I can do differently, opportunities to shake my own routine up a bit. These aren’t moments to wallow, they’re moments to grow. Some great stuff in my career has come out of times where I feel I’ve been passed over for recognition or had my hand-slapped for something I felt was undeserved. As Tom Sr. says in Tommy Boy, if you’re not growing, you’re dying and there’s nothing quite as motivating as the desire to be the next one who’s recognized in a positive way.