Bouncing Back From Failure: Free Preview

You’ve landed on a free preview of the Bouncing Back from Failure course. We’ve selected two lessons that will help give you an idea of what this course is all about. You’ll find them below. If you’d like to access the rest of the lessons or course materials, you can purchase the course here:

Lesson 7 – Recognizing the Force that Keeps You Stuck in the Past

“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”

Lingering Failure

As I mentioned in the beginning of this class, I flunked out of an excellent private school when I was a teenager. I felt like I failed because I had failed. As a result, I developed a belief that the lingering feeling of shame that shadowed me was not only deserved, but was my atonement. My mind constantly reminded me that I had failed myself out of Bellarmine. It was as if my brain hadn’t moved on. There was a part of me that hadn’t come to terms with the situation, and I was still stuck in the past, preventing me from fully engaging with the current world. This lack of engagement led to additional academic failures, which in turn led to more shame and more academic failure.

It was similar to having a mental zombie that kept rising from the dead to haunt my mind. This lingering failure made me feel ashamed and prevented me from opening up to future opportunities, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that led to even more failure. It was as if my mind was stuck in a shame spiral that I couldn’t get out of.

The Shame Spiral

Typically, the shame spiral plays out in a loop that goes like this:

  1. Failure: A setback happens that puts you into chaos.
  2. Judgment: Time goes by and you recover from that failure. However, as your inner Judge starts examining the situation, it starts persecuting you for not being omniscient and superhuman. The Judge decides that you are guilty of failing and wants to remind you of this on a regular basis.
  3. Shame: The emotional burden of the Judge’s unfair ruling still hangs with you. You have a feeling of regret over the failure and shame for not being perfect. You begin attacking yourself for a long-gone mistake and remind yourself of it often. The shame you feel tricks you into thinking you ought to feel this way out of penance for your failure.
  4. Emotional breaking point: You get so frustrated that you promise yourself that this will never happen again. So, you create a new plan that seems failure-proof. You assume you are a flawless machine that can work 24/7. You make a plan that is based on an ideal future in which you have unlimited willpower and the foresight to never let this failure happen again. This plan assumes that all will go perfectly.
  5. Failure again: Your perfect plan is destroyed by real life. Failure happens due to the unreasonable expectations you placed upon yourself, which then lead back to judgment, and the entire cycle repeats itself.

The Shame Spiral Compounds

Over each iteration of the shame spiral, you begin giving your personal Judge evidence to repeatedly condemn you for all of your past and current failures. In our legal system, being tried for the same crime twice is considered double jeopardy, which is illegal. If it’s illegal in our court system to punish you twice for the same crime, then why do you allow your mind to get away with it? A lot of it has to do with the fact that our Judge has become so ingrained in our minds that we can’t distinguish his voice from our own clear thinking. So, the first step we must face is to focus on spotting the Judge. The good news is that becoming aware of this Judge allows us to not take the Judge so seriously.

Spotting the Judge

The Judge uses common language to indicate he’s involved in your life. Usually, he starts sentences with the following openers:

  • “You should have known…” The Judge expects you to be godlike in your ability to perfectly
    understand how the future will unfold.
  • “Why did you…” The Judge has an accusatory tone that will put you on the defensive for your
    actions. The Judge questions your motives and your decision-making ability.
  • “This is bad…” The Judge looks at things as black and white. Good or bad. Not what is, but what should be.
  • “You did it again…” The Judge sees a failure and immediately reminds you of all of your previous failures. It thinks you must punish yourself for this mistake and all previous ones, and he convinces you that this mistake is a personality flaw that you can’t overcome.

By being able to spot the Judge, you create distance between yourself and it that will help you break his shame-inducing logic.

To Do:

  1. Open your Bounce Back Journal to practice this exercise.
  2. Think about the failure shame spiral and write down which past failures you continue to contemplate in your bounce back journal.
  3. Write down the shame language you use to explain your situation.
  4. Remind yourself to recognize the voice of the Judge, which will help you gain distance between the Judge’s thoughts and that of your own.
  5. For extra credit, think about how you use the Judge, not only shame yourself but also to shame others. What are some ways you can stop Judging others?

Lesson 10 – How To Manage Failed Relationships

“Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it.”

The Power of Compounding Relationships

As we teach in our course, Building a Network for Success, the people we surround ourselves with have a phenomenal impact on our well-being. You are the average of the top five people you spend the majority of your time with. We all know the power of compounding interest: invest a small sum of money, give it time to grow, and when you return, you should have much more money. The same can be said about compounding relationships. If you invest your time with good people, then they will repay your time with love, encouragement, and personal growth, which will make you a stronger person over time. Conversely, if you spend your time with negative people, then they will repay your time with despair, self-doubt, and stifled personal growth.

So then why do we choose to spend time with people that have a negative impact on our lives?

Understanding Why We Remain in Failed Relationships

There are several reasons why we stay in failed relationships:

  • We are people-pleasers: From early in childhood, working as a team is prioritized over individuality. This can become a slippery slope of lost boundaries and the inability to say “no,” and we end up staying in bad situations out of fear of hurting someone else’s feelings.
  • We fear the unknown: Many times, we haven’t spent much time alone, or have only been in relationships that are unhealthy. We therefore don’t even know what it’s like to be in healthy relationships. The fear of the unknown is what then drives us to stay in our toxic situation. We think to ourselves that “a known hell is better than the unknown.”
  • We believe that we are flawed: Sometimes we stay in bad relationships because we believe that we are flawed. This is when that imposter voice comes in and lies to us, telling us that it is better to stay in unhealthy relationships because if we are around better people, then they may see us for who we “really” are.

Using the Relationship Journal to Diagnose and Repair Failed Relationships

The easiest way to spot a failed relationship and diagnose the situation is to use the relationship journal found within your Bounce Back Journal. 

Chronicle and analyze your relationships by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How do I feel after I interact with the person? Do I feel energized, or exhausted? If you feel exhausted each time you deal with this person, it’s your body telling you that this person is not good for you.
  • Does this person genuinely love and support me? Is it the support I need? Do they encourage me to grow as a person? If the person is happy with your success and celebrates your victories, you’re around someone who is positive. If they don’t and they make you second guess your progress, you’re around a negative person.
  • Is this person related to me by blood, and have they ever used that as an excuse to treat me poorly? Remind yourself that if it is a blood relationship, their behavior is a sign of their lack of love and respect for you as a person. Someone in your family constantly hurting you is not really family.
  1. Mark is assuming Connie has time to meet in person. What Mark is actually asking for is Connie’s valuable time without considering her needs. Her needs could be precious time with her kids, time spent on a passion project, or just time to unwind. 
  1. Mark is providing Connie little-to-no value. Before I make a request of someone I don’t know, I ask myself, “What can I give?” (Review the Connector’s Toolbox for ideas). If I can’t determine what the person needs, getting what I want now depends on the person’s goodwill and charity, and the odds of my message receiving a reply plummets.  

So how do you increase the odds of getting what you want without hurting the other person?

Strategies to Repair or Exit a Failed Relationship

You should consider your relationships carefully: how they might be improved or even whether they are worth preserving.

  • Affirm your self worth: Tell yourself, “I deserve to be in healthy relationships that provide me with love and support.” Repeat it every day because it’s true.
  • Set boundaries: Provide the negative person with feedback regarding how you wish to be treated. If they are capable of being positive, then they will recognize your value, apologize for their disrespect, and change their behavior accordingly. If they are truly negative, then they will attack you and blame you for being selfish. If they agree to change, but they continue to violate your boundaries, then it’s time to move on.
  • Soft goodbye: If you cannot be direct with the person, or you have tried to the best of your ability but have not been able to make the relationship work, then make an excuse to be unavailable and minimize contact with the person. Slowly stop responding to their requests of you. This sets expectations that you aren’t available to serve as their emotional pillow. Note that this is not an ideal strategy: it is the best that you can do now, before you learn how to better manage these kinds of relationships. Make a note that you are using this crutch for now and want to improve in this area in the future.
  • Meet new people and set realistic expectations: It will take time to make new friends, and not everyone you meet will be your cup of tea (or be a perfect match). But that’s okay. You need to cast a wide net so you don’t rigidly define what a perfect relationship will be. You have to accept that this will take time, but it’s the most important thing you can do to bring positive people into your life. Look at yourself as a gold miner. For most swings of the pickaxe, you’ll only find rocks. But every once in a while, you’ll find a gold nugget that makes up for everything else.

To Do:

  1. Open your Bounce Back Journal and start diagnosing your relationships.
  2. If you find negative people in your journal, then it’s time to decide if you will try to repair those relationships or make your exit by using the strategies above.


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Meet Your Instructors

Jordan Thibodeau

Jordan has spent over a decade forging relationships with CEOs, authors, and entrepreneurs through his professional work on Google’s Mergers and Acquisitions Team, and Google’s Talks Program - a TED-like series recorded for offices worldwide. Jordan’s also the community manager and founder of the Silicon Valley Investor’s Club (SVIC).

Joe Ternasky

Joe is an engineering leader who has dedicated the majority of his career to developing, training, and educating culturally diverse teams. He has been an instrumental part of delivering technical experience to large-scale distributed systems, modern user experiences, cross-platform and multilingual applications.

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