From Defeat To Victory: Transforming Setbacks Into Opportunities

Tim Parkins
3 min readFeb 28

Several days ago, I was following my usual morning routine, which includes guided meditation using the Headspace app. The app has a section called ‘The Wake Up’, where there is often an inspirational video shared. On this day, the video was of Blake Leeper, who is a United States Paralympic athlete, eight-time Paralympic Track and Field international medalist, world record holder and three-time American record holder.

His story really resonated with me, especially the quote below;

“My adversity is my strength.”

That phrase really caught my attention, and it is what inspired this article.

If you are doing work that is meaningful, setbacks are inevitable. In fact, if you aren’t encountering failures and challenges, you need to consider if you have stagnated in your life and career. Encountering setbacks is a normal part of stepping outside of your comfort zone and becoming the next best version of yourself.

It’s easy to become discouraged when facing a setback. But it’s important to remember that setbacks can offer us the opportunity to grow and to learn. I know, easier said than done…

The story that you tell yourself when encountering a failure matters.

You have a choice when this happens; you can either feel discouraged or you can choose to consider what you have learned because of the setback, and how that insight will now allow you to move forward more effectively. Because you now know more. Failure is just a data point. As Thomas Edison famously claimed,

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

Recovering from a setback

Getting control of your emotions is the first step after a setback. You will probably be upset, maybe angry. You will feel some disappointment, maybe even having a sense of inadequacy. This is obviously not the ideal emotional state for learning, so you will want to calm yourself down as a first step. Stopping for some deep breaths can help here, maybe even doing a bit of meditation if you can calm yourself down enough. Talking to a friend, spouse, or mentor can often be useful. Remind yourself that the feelings you are…

Tim Parkins

Career Coach & Work Architect. Reinventing work.