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Dealing With Failures & Setbacks

steelwolf180 profile image Max Ong Zong Bao Updated on ・4 min read


Regardless of how you live your life. You will encounter setbacks & failures in life. But through these failures & setbacks. You become smarter, better and faster. Yes, I know I know, having foresight helps alot.

But sometimes when you are focused on the task at hand mentally, physically & spiritually. It makes it hard to think in the future. Which is why I favour Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) Loop. As it allows you to make rapid decisions with very little time to think towards the execution of the idea.

Channel Your Inner MacGyver

Recently, I literally had to channel my inner macgyver. Due to a sudden last min drop off by a former assocaite to work on a deal.

Which gave me less than 24 hours to find someone to fulfil the strict requirements needed for the deal. This literally was a make or break moment. Which lead me to have an aha moment, using my network & relationship with the person to join me on this deal.

Luckily I was happy that I had built enough goodwill with the person. Who personally knows that I am a hard worker. Which I put in 110% effort into whatever I do. Therefore I will find a way to make it happen. It was literally a leap of faith to convince someone to join you on a ride at such short notice. Therefore I'm really thankful and grateful for the person. Who was willing to join me on the ride to get the deal done.

Reflection Of What You Can Learn From It

Once you are done with fire fighting. It is always best to reflect & write down what you had learnt and done. Think of it like you are running a Blameless Post Motern or After Action Review if you are from the military. On reflecting on what can be done. To prevent, reduce the impact, refine your processes or message conveyed to people in doing something. So you can become better, smarter and faster. While executing this activity to reduce the chances of it happening again.

I always love to joke that murphy has struck more than once. Which when you are in that situation, you really hate it. But you learn to set up processes within the system. Which allows you to delegate or automate it away. I would like to caution even with the best plan, you will always encounter hiccups. Which you overcome it with the people, resources and being stoic to allow you to deal with the fire.

Practising Stoicism

When you had encountered failures, setbacks. You can vent your anger and frustration out. Cause you are entitled to vent it for just 5 mins - 10 mins. Ideally, you should work on practising Stoicism to not be afraid of failures, setbacks & rejections. To be emotionless to deal with figuring a way to make it work or happen regardless of the failure, setback & rejection.

Showing emotion in situations that requires your immediate action can sometimes lead to bad decisions with consequences. So always seek to keep calm as a cucumber by being Stoicism to remove the emotion to work on figuring out a way to make it work. I know I don't preach on the importance of Stoicism. I believe this is a great operating system for life if you plan to an entrepreneur or work in a startup. Which allows me to do things that I would never imagine myself doing.


In this article, you are taught to figure out a way to unscrew the situation based upon the cards you are dealt with from the setback, failure and rejection you had gotten. So you can tap on yourself to think and figure out a way to work regardless of the situation.

Next, you had learned to focus on doing a self-reflection in the in conducting a After Action Review to take ownership of the failures & setbacks. Regardless you are directly involved or indirectly involved to become smarter, better & faster.

I won't want to avoid these. As it has contributed to becoming a person of who I am now. In fact, I wish that I can become smarter, better & faster by getting more failures & setbacks. Without having too many consequences from it.

Learning to practice Stoicism is useful in learning to deal with high-pressure activities. While being calm like cucumber in these times of social, economic upheaval to deal with the cards you are dealt with. My personal favourite book for Stoicism is Meditations by Marcus Auriellis the Roman emperor is a Stoic philosopher.

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Max Ong Zong Bao


Max is a life enhancer for tech & entrepreneurship. Which seeks to blend both to build innovative products or services for the world that solves hard problems.


Editor guide

Hello Max Ong Zong Bao,

Thank you for your article.
I agree with the phrase "... Showing emotions in situations that require your immediate action can sometimes lead to bad decisions with consequences ...".
I think that's a very wise statement.

Just for information, there is a very small typo in your article "**faster*". I assume you meant "faster"?

Sometimes it's good to slow down from time to time ;).


Thanks for catching it, I think it's alright cause you just figure out a way to overcome it. Even with the best preparation & planning, there is always things you can do better.


You are welcome :).

I'm afraid if the focus is mostly on speed, there won't be time to enjoy the work / craft I've learned.
I also fear that if you are not careful you could develop into an "intellectual assembly line worker".
("You" in the previous sentence is of course meant as "someone". I'm not going to judge you.)

I think your understanding of speed is different from mine. What I'm referring in terms of speed it is going through the OODA loop. When you are in the thick of the moment executing or force to do fire fighting to figure out a way.

It serves on tactical level but on strategy level. You still require time in thinking & reflection to become better & smarter from this activity or event.

The last thing you want them to suffer from analysis paralysis or being hampered by fear to take action.