What Will You Gain from Your Misfortune?

For me, each season brings a different focus. Fall is about starting. Winter is about persisting. Spring is recommitting. And summer is reflecting.

This summer, I’ve been reflecting on wins and losses. On the business side of things, there have been heartbreaking losses this year. Just as it is with the defeats themselves, the reflection can make you bitter, or it can make you better.

As I’ve taken a look back at our ongoing effort to win good work this year, some of the losses have felt just downright unfair. We lost one massive project because another company acquired our customer. We had finalized but then lost another project because the customer experienced a sudden unexpected financial setback. And another project was pulled due to a corporate shake-up and restructure. For each, we had planned on the work and were disappointed when it didn’t happen.

These weren’t so much failures or tragedies as they were just plain bad luck. And that’s part of the experience of being human. Misfortune causes us pain and frustration, but it can also lead to something else—that is, if we’ll allow it. I was reminded of this as my summer reflection included the phenomenal speech Chief Justice John Roberts delivered last month at his son’s middle school graduation:

From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either.

And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.

My entitlement resents misfortune. And the pain often causes me to dismiss and move quickly past it. Perhaps the better response is to search for the message in the misfortune.

It’s freeing to remember that I’m not always in control. Unfairness, betrayal, loneliness, bad luck, loss, rejection, pain—they’re all part of being human. We can either be better or bitter from it.

What misfortune have you recently experienced?



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