When you get knocked down, do you get back up even stronger? That’s the core question financial journalist Rick Newman poses in his new book Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback to Success (Ballantine Books, 225 pages:26).
“A lot of renowned and successful people have failed at something, occasionally at something big,” Newman writes. The important thing is they learned from failure and ultimately became “better and more successful.”
Not everyone has the resilience to stand up when things crash around them. Those who are blessed with that ability Newman dubs “rebounders.” Defined as: “A person with the enviable ability to bounce back from adversity and thrive after setbacks.”
Failing is a teaching moment, or many moments, as the case may be. And it can be the best thing that ever happened to you, if you’re determined enough to get to the other side.
Newman deftly profiles a dozen successful folks, from CEOs to entrepreneurs to musicians to athletes, to find out how setbacks make people stronger and smarter. The stories are rich.
“I wanted to know what kept them going, where their confidence came from, how they found their way in the dark,” he writes.
You will know some of them by name, others by their business creations. You meet Jack Bogle, founder of no-load mutual fund company Vanguard; the talented Americana roots musical artist Lucinda Williams; tennis player James Blake; legendary baseball manager Joe Torre; Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora, the online music service, and others.
This is a business book, but beneath the surface lurks a self-help manual. Since he’s not a psychologist, Newman writes, these are just observations. But Newman’s insights ring true, and serve up that elusive ingredient, hope, that folks who have taken some blows in these tricky economic times will find useful.
As a successful journalist, who himself has had a few knocks, Newman has a knack for getting his interviewees to share their fears and motivation. Their journeys are both entertaining and instructive.
Consider Bogle, who wrote in his 1999 bestseller Common Sense on Mutual Funds, “I have come to regard failure as another essential of leadership. … It is often best if things don’t come too easily in this life.”
Rebounders have found “good ways to fail.” No one person embodies all the characteristics that can help people rise from life’s disappointments. Here are some key attributes that Newman found:
• An ability to accept failure. They don’t let anger, indignation, guilt or other bad feelings dominate them. They don’t pin the blame on someone else, or shrug it off as bad luck.
•• A desire to take action. They feel motivated to do something when faced with a stressful situation, even if they aren’t sure where it will lead.
•• An open mind for new ideas. They’re flexible thinkers looking for solutions.
•• Heroes. “Many have mentors or role models who guide them and help them frame what they believe in,” Newman says. “When James Blake felt sorry for himself, he recalled the grace and dignity of his hero, Arthur Ashe.”
•• An ability to be comfortable with discomfort. “They’re willing to accept hardships and inconveniences as long as they feel they are getting closer to an important goal,” he finds. There’s “no squealing with outrage if they have to make sacrifices in order to accomplish something important.”
•• A motivating passion. Passion isn’t everything, but it “helps them work long hours, deflect naysayers, try difficult things, and stretch their talents as far as they’ll go,” Newman writes. “Most people who accomplish something worthwhile aren’t indifferent about it. If they were, they wouldn’t be motivated to take the risks or bear the tradeoffs that are often the tollbooths on the road to high achievement.”
They also know how to tweak their passion. For Westergren, his core love was music. Yet after graduating from Stanford, forming a band and touring, he realized the band could never make enough money to “ease the financial stress.”
In time, he was able to overcome his preconceived idea about how to succeed in music, and he envisioned Pandora. He “used his passion to invent a new business model that made him feel as jazzed as he felt when performing at the piano,” Newman says.
In the final reckoning, to be a rebounder, you have to have what it takes to turn a bad situation to your advantage. Do you? Newman’s diverse examples offer a guide to how it’s done. Your only regret might be that the book isn’t longer.
Hannon is a freelance writer and author of What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job