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Loss and Failure on Steroids

Every time I have a conversation with someone in business, whether it be a client, colleague, or friend, haunting memories of the 2008 recession pop up.

The memories of that dark time in our economy apparently still linger. Most of those memories are associated with a level of loss and failure. The difference between those who rebounded and those who still struggle is apparent in how they leaned into lessons-to-be-learned.

For those owners who run and operate a family-owned business, I’m finding that the memories are significantly tied to a deep sense of guilt or shame. This is particularly true if they lost homes or other personal assets as a result of the recession.

“I lost everything,” they tell me.

Look for the Life Lesson

You’ve heard me say often enough that trauma, in whatever form, can result in our getting stuck in the past. There’s a period of time where we need to process what’s happened, and then, at some point, we need to move to higher ground.

This nuanced transition is different for each of us as it has little to do with concrete time. Only you can determine the best process and the exact timing required to move forward.

I understand the challenge of these transitions only too well.

When we lost our son Michael, my business was flourishing. It was overwhelming. I had to process the trauma of my loss, but I also had contracts to honor and clients to serve. I had employees and a business to run.

Yes, it was 2008, and as I measured my own loss against the many failures my clients were experiencing, it was difficult to breathe much less create effective results.

Part of processing my grief included looking for ways to learn and grow from the loss, and, yes, it felt like failure, too, for the hard fought battle to keep Michael alive for over four years was over.

Just like many of you who recant your narrative of failure and loss in business, all the demons of self-doubt rose up: What did I miss? What could we have done differently? Why didn’t I know that the end was near? What should I have started? Stopped?

When dark moments are clouded with self-doubt and regret, it’s even more difficult to look for, much less see, life lessons that can get us to the other side. How can one learn, after all, when life itself makes no sense?

But, in due time . . .

God will reveal to you some purpose beyond your understanding.

Listen. Wait.

The opportunity for growth in these most excruciating moments of failure and loss lies dormant—waiting to be discovered by you. At just the right time.

I know this is true not from my own experience alone but because it’s true for the many leaders I have worked with who tell me, without equivocation, that they can pinpoint the exact moment when the light revealed a deeper understanding.

While they may have suffered significant economic loss or failure, it is this precise moment of awareness that has now positioned them for greater success and a more meaningful experience of life.

Make space to honor the painful moments of the past, and you will experience growth. Stay stuck in the past, and you will miss this transitional moment that is designed specifically for you.

Resiliency is grounded in our capacity to integrate this honoring with a renewed sense of urgency and imagination for what’s yet to come.

Shift Your Perspective

I’m not saying this will be easy. I am saying that it’s possible. Making sense of the past requires healthy self-reflection and this is very different from getting stuck in regret and self-pity.

So, how does one go about this process?

Depending on the severity of the loss, you might seek objective support. If you decide to go it alone, that’s okay, too. Start with the end in mind. What do you specifically need to let go of in order to feel whole again?

Going back to the example of my son, it was extremely difficult for me to accept that I would never see him or hear his voice again. I had to work hard to convince myself that his quality of life had deteriorated to the point of mere existence.

It might sound odd, but this new narrative helped ease the pain. It shifted me from my own need to have my son, for our sake, to a place where I focused on Michael being free of all pain and suffering.

Think of a recent failure or loss that continues to pull you into the past. You don’t want to repress that experience. You want to learn from it.

Making meaning of the past requires that we look at the event or situation through a different lens. We must move beyond our first person perspective to a place where we can objectively view the scenario from different points of view.

Across this great nation, most of us experienced some form of loss or failure in 2008.

It’s 2020 now.

You can do the hard work to integrate that experience into a life lesson that is now the impetus for a more meaningful and prosperous life.

You owe it to yourself, to the people you love, and to your employees.


If you’d like to know more about how Sharon works with family-business owners to help them overcome transitional moments of loss or failure, schedule a complementary Discovery Call at: https://go.oncehub.com/meetwithSharonSpano.

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. March 5, 2020