I’m having a bad day
I’m having a frustrating month
I’m having a terrible year
I have been guilty of saying all of these and so has Albert Einstein.
After Einstein graduated from college, he spent two frustrating years looking for and failing to get a job as a teaching assistant. During this time, he had a child out-of-wedlock and a girlfriend his family disapproved of greatly. For all his efforts during this time, he was only able to secure the lowest position at the patent office, which was really attained by help from his friend’s father.
I’m sure Einstein wasn’t too thrilled about his life during that period but this setback is one of the main reasons why Einstein’s image has become synonymous with genius. His job as an assistant patent examiner gave Einstein real world training on visualizing the ideas in the patent proposals he examined and at the same time nurtured his skepticism which is inherent to deciding the feasibility of the patents being proposed and a skill necessary to challenge the accepted scientific theories of his day. Both these skills and the free time Einstein had due to the easy work load at the patent office allowed Einstein to conduct thought experiments that led to his four groundbreaking papers which included his theory of relativity and E = mc2. If Einstein had been successful in landing a teaching assistant’s position right out of college, he would not have had the time or mindset to create the foundation to modern physics that he is famous for today.
“Every adversity has the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit”.
Setbacks create opportunities … (if you don’t believe me, just look into the lives of most successful people)
… but not if you overwhelm yourself with self-pity.
The key is to focus on the positive and to be aware of opportunities created by the situation.
It really doesn’t help to ask yourself: Why me? What If I had? Why didn’t I?
Instead it is better to ask yourself: What did I learn? What’s next? What can I do now?
When the New York Stock Exchange switched to an electronic system and short-term traders like myself became increasingly obsolete, I had a terrible year but this setback opened up an opportunity to work in China and learn about management in the world’s fastest economy. After a while, I began having many bad days due to the long hours and stress of working in China and being away from my family so I decided to return to the United States. The general lack of real fulfillment in my previous careers led me to think more about finding the “right” job and I ended up reading two books that have changed my life (click here to read more about me). Now I am pursuing my passion to help others reach their full potential and I believe I got here because of all my setbacks.
I can’t wait until my next setback. How about you?
Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.
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