How To Grow During The Downtimes


How in the world does a person grow during the low points in life?  How can we take our setbacks and turn them into something great?  What can we learn from our perceived failures?  If there’s anything I’ve learned in all my 23 years, it’s how to use my darkest hours and lowest points in life to learn a lesson and eventually create a success.

To better understand where I’m coming from today, I want to open up with a quote from the late Randy Pausch:

“The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.”

It oftentimes takes something really disappointing, something really drastic to get us out of our comfort zone and onto a real journey through life.  It’s like the old saying goes; “everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

It seems that everyone wishes to do something great or different but the major factor we all miss out on is our reaction to a setback.  The way one perceives their failures will tell you a lot about the type of person they are.  For some, failure means the end of the world.  For others, it only means they learned how not to do something.

So, how can we change our thinking and learn how to grow during our downtimes?

We must remember three things.

1. Failure Is An Illusion

Failure is a terrible word – I hate to use it actually.  The connotation is negative; no, scratch that.  It’s actually repulsive.  To me, a failure is nothing but a lesson.  Michael Jordan, as well as many other high achievers, will tell you they are most successful because they failed more than anyone else.

To them, the failures were their best teachers.  They were never truly a failure in the sense of the word because they kept pushing for something better; they kept getting up.  Their minds revolved around an explicit goal and their passion for success was greater than the reminiscence of an unfulfilled dream.

This is why failure is an illusion.  If you choose to look at your setbacks as lessons, as positive criticism on how to improve yourself, you will never experience true failure; it’s impossible.  You will continue growing because your eyes are set on what’s in front of you (desires, goals, passions) as opposed to the setbacks behind you.

During the downtimes, you may feel like a failure or be experiencing what you perceive to be failure.  Remember, it’s an illusion; it’s only masking a great lesson to be learned.  Embrace your experiences and grow from them.

In order to treat your perceived failures as lessons you must ask 2 questions.  What can I learn from this?  How can I make it better?  I believe the answers are always there; however, you may have to ponder some questions longer than others.

2. Obstacles Are Present For A Reason

Ever wonder why everyone isn’t rich and famous?  Ever think about why there are only a handful of professional athletes in the world? Ever wonder why some people get so much accomplished while others seem to mire in mediocrity?

One reason: Obstacles.

Everyone experiences obstacles in some form or fashion.  It’s simply a part of life.  It’s also the reason why only a select few people ever seem accomplish anything worthwhile.  To be a professional athlete requires lots of dedication, practice, and the guidance of a great coach.  Granted, you need some talent, but talent is overrated.  Practice and persistence go much further than talent ever will.  Do you remember what Benjamin Franklin once said?  “Diligence is the mother of good luck”.

Oftentimes, certain obstacles are thought of as the lowest of the lows.  My best friend just graduated with his MBA and he’s been pounding the pavement looking for work.  Still, after lots of interning and working odd jobs for months, he’s landed nothing solid.

To date, this is one of the biggest obstacles he’s ever faced.  However, he kept pushing; kept pursuing and doing what he thought was best.  Just when he imagined it was time to quit his internship, he spoke with the boss and landed a position.  Right as he began to entertain the thought of leaving, his diligence paid off.

Remember, the obstacles you face are there for a reason.  They’re present to make you appreciate your accomplishments and they weed out the competition.  It would be a boring life if everything worth having was easy to obtain.  Obstacles are a blessing in disguise.

3. You Are More Than Enough

Yes, you.  You are more than enough.  You don’t need much, if anything at all.  All you need is you and a personal belief in yourself.  You must learn to use your downfalls and setbacks as opportunities to grow and reach new heights.  Remember that failure is only real when you choose to let it defeat you.  It only exists when you allow yourself to give up.

Breaking barriers in your path are what make the journey so exhilarating.   Hurdling obstacles and watching yourself progress is what makes life worth living.  You are fully capable of turning your lowest of lows into the most memorable experiences of your life.

So what are you currently dealing with that you could change for the better?  How could you turn your current situation into the best lesson you’ve learned yet?  How can you create your ideal reality because of what you may now perceive as a setback?

Photo by *saxon*

22 thoughts on “How To Grow During The Downtimes”

  1. Hey JC,

    I enjoyed your post. I think most of us overestimate the danger of down times. So we over-react emotionally to them, and instead if seeing the opportunity, summing up our resources and pushing trough, we retreat in our shell. Another missed opportunity!


    1. Thanks Eduard.

      The reason I wrote this is because many of us really do miss the opportunities we have as a result of our setbacks. Yesterday, in fact, I was completely disappointed with a semester final grade – I walked out knowing that I aced the exam, only to find out I got a C.

      I was pretty bummed about the whole situation but instead of getting all upset and worried, I just asked a question: “what can I learn about this moment? How can I make sure this doesn’t happen again?”

      I immediately came up with a solution – spend more time in the books; get to know the material even better than I thought I knew it.

      this is a very small downtime mind you, but there is still something to learn from it.

  2. Hi JC .. good points for this time of year – if life has taken a turn for the worse .. it’s time to prepare and move on with a new resolve .. there are so many opportunities, if you can think positively and work forward.

    Enjoy Christmas and a prosperous 2010 …
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

    1. yea, I didn’t really think of that when I wrote the piece but sure. It’s just in time for people to focus on the new year and how they can turn their setbacks into something positive.

  3. Hey JC.

    Failure sure is an illusion. Some folks would want us to not see that, but that is because they might want us to accept failure as a reality like they accept it, which doesn’t show bad intent, but isn’t really helpful to us.

    We see it for what it is, and what you described here, as a source of information for us to work from the next time. When we look at it like this, it is hard to even call it “failure”. We might as well call it knowledge-gaining, or the non-successful way to do something.

    You are very right about obstacles. We often act like we are against obstacles, but after we pass them, we are always glad they are there, so that others have to prove their worth to pass them like we did. They represent something of value, and without obstacles, there wouldn’t be great achievements.

    Cool stuff.

  4. JC,

    I really enjoyed this. As somebody who just also finished an MBA in April and has pounded the pavement I’ve found this to be one of the greatest times of growth. I’ve launched my blog, discovered a love for a new sport, and learned roll with or through the punches. I’ve connected with hundreds of bloggers and made new friends. Everything is really about perspective. You can let the down times destroy you or you can let it bring out the best in you. I ‘m going with the latter.

  5. JC,

    Growing during the downtimes is absolutely possible and it is something I believe in truly. Just like our muscles, our personality also grows not during the exercise, but during the calm times, or the down times. Negative experiences give us new perspectives, they teach us, they motivate us to be better.

    “Thou shalt not fear the bad times” ;)


  6. Great article. Nothing is truer then the fact that we only fail when we stop trying. The other element of the downtimes are the crack are armor. And not just the armor that separates us from the world but the armor that separates us from ourselves. When we can see our selves for who we are we see the things we have done wrong and can start making plans to correct them, as long as we remember to keep our eyes open for the lessons.

  7. ‘Faliure is learning how NOT to do something’ – this is something that I’ve only been able to absorb in the last year and already it’s improved my life and attitude no end. It can be difficult to apply though when you’re feeling low and discouraged, I’ve found that it helps to apply this to little problems too, which then means that when a big ‘fail’ happens you automatically have the thought pattern of ‘what can I learn?’ in place.

  8. The Randy Pausch quote was so perfect for this article and for the topic in general. Everybody has hopes and dreams, but so many people aren’t willing to stand tall and keep taking all the steps along the way through the journey.

    Great article.

  9. Hi JC. I really liked this article. I agree that failure is just an illusion. We can see failure as something that holds us back, or something that is trying to tell us to change our approach. It all depends on how one wishes to view the situation. As Napoleon Hill once said, “Every adversity, every failure, and every heartache carries with it the Seed of an equivalent or a greater Benefit.”

  10. Hi,

    Good post and true!

    Actually i think we learn the most in these times. It’s when we learn to change, adapt, learn, grow, stretch.

    Obviously we dont want to be in a down time but often this is what we need to go to the “next level”. It’s not easy to do but if you can look at these times in a positive way then you will also learn so much more.


  11. You want to hear something funny that most people don’t think about? LACK of failure and significant obstacles early in life can actually make life harder later on…

    When I was young, very little was hard for me… school was ridiculously easy for me, my dad made decent money, I got along with everyone, etc. While all of these can certainly be good things, all taken together they meant that I never really encountered much in the way of failure or obstacles, which means that I never had to learn how to deal with them

    Let me tell you… those lessons are a lot harder to learn later in life.

    PS – Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish I had a worse childhood, I just wish there had been more to challenge me.

  12. I felt like leaving another comment, too… sometimes it takes some pretty serious downtimes (pretty much a solid kick in the rear), to get you to do something you need to do. I lost my job a little over a month ago. You could, I’m pretty sure, call that a downtime.

    That job, however, was killing me. It was tearing me apart, and because of that, it was hurting my family, too (I barely saw my daughter a lot of the time because I was working so much). Losing it was the best thing that happened to me in a long while.

    It took me a week to recover enough to be able to start looking for a job. About 20-30 minutes after I submitted my resume to the first place, I was called to schedule an interview later that day. Three days later I was offered the job, and I took it.

    I make substantially less at my new job (a little more than half), but I work less than five miles from where I live, I have pretty much no overtime, and I feel like a new man.

    Just a couple days ago, I realized why my previous job was killing me so much (it had been fun for years, but had gotten bad about two years ago, then much worse at the end of 2008), and why I enjoy my new job so much… my previous job had changed so much that it went completely against my nature, and my new job suits my nature much better.

    I wrote an article about it, if you’re interested in reading it… it’s at

    Thank you, JC, for provoking my thoughts.

  13. Jason, thanks a lot for sharing.

    I too, can relate to having very bad job experiences. Some of them were so bad in fact that I’d have anxiety attacks on the way into work. However, those were lessons in themselves and gave me the drive to pursue something different and more meaningful.

    Sometimes it takes a blow in life to really make us see the light. Sometimes it takes “losing something” and feeling completely lost and terrible, only to realize it was for our own good.

  14. Hey thnx much for sharing your valuable inspiring thoughts and learning with all of us. I really loved it and now i eagerly am waiting to read more of such wonderful and amazing pieces. Also would like to take this opportunity to thank you :)

    P.S. Jason would appreciate if such valuable stuff is forwarded by you on my Personal email id.

    Thanks & Regards,

    1. glad you enjoyed it.

      what do you mean by this?

      “Jason would appreciate if such valuable stuff is forwarded by you on my Personal email id.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *