During our journey, we will inevitably be met with unexpected challenges that delay or derail us from our goals.  Unfortunately, life doesn’t always care about all the hard work we put into something or our grand plans for the future.  Occasionally, life knocks us off our horse.

Let’s take a moment to remember that no matter what adversity is thrown at us – physical injury or a health setback, a demotion, getting cut out of the big deal, being left off the team, or losing your starting spot – we can choose to keep our heads up and remind ourselves that:

“Your setback is the platform for your comeback.”


It’s only three weeks into the 2017 NFL season and already we see players on both sides of the ball – well known and not – fall to injury and be sidelined for the rest of the season.

It’s heartbreaking to think about the incredible amount of hard work, dedication and passion that went into preparing for a full season, only for it to be cut short.  Some don’t even make it out of preseason…

On the surface, the next man steps up into the position and the team moves forward.  Sooner or later, that injured player is forgotten by most fans until next season when they can come back and make an impact on the field again, or in someone’s fantasy football line up.

However, I challenge us to remember that when a player’s season ends with an injury, a new story is just beginning for them – just one we rarely see or hear about.  That sidelined player starts his road to recovery – to rehab the injury that ended his season and put in the grueling work to come back even stronger for the next year.

How can we take a page out of their playbook to overcome our own setbacks and get back on the field stronger than before?

Get the Most Out of Your Time on the Sidelines

Let’s be honest – it’s not fun to be on the sidelines.  We are driven people, so when we aren’t out there working towards our individual or team goals it can be very painful.

But when we get knocked down, and our dreams get crushed or delayed, we don’t have to roll over and give up.  We have the opportunity to learn from the adversity and come out stronger and wiser than before.

All of our circumstances are unique, yet that opportunity to become better remains the same no matter what field of life we play on.

So when that setback hits, what will we choose to do?  Sulk and feel sorry for ourselves?  Or take the opportunity to get better.

Let’s look at some ways to begin our road to getting back on the field.

Watch Your Game Film

When things go wrong, there is never a better place to start than looking in the mirror.

Granted, when we are no longer playing on an actual field, there will be limited opportunities to actually watch film on our performance, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of our own perspective and that of those we trust.

Think through what happened.  Did we run the wrong route, did we not read the room or our audience correctly, did we miss what the potential client actually needed us to deliver, or were we missing a critical skill to get the job done?  Ask yourself the tough questions and determine what happened.

Also, don’t be afraid to leverage your trusted teammates or colleagues.  Ask them where they think you went wrong, and in what areas you can improve.  No matter how self-aware we may be, we can never see ourselves from all the angles.  Ask for feedback and put it to good use!

And last, but certainly not least, recognize whether or not what happened was actually in our control.  If it was – great – let’s fix it, but if it wasn’t, then we have to know to let it go.

Understand Your Weaknesses or Blind-spots

Once we know what happened when adversity struck, we next need to understand why.

Whether we made a mistake, or had one of our weaknesses exploited, it is important that we learn from the experience and decide what to do next in order to move forward.

Once again, we must be honest with ourselves.  We have all been given gifts  – those things that we do better than most.  However we also have weaknesses, and we need to be smart about how we choose to handle them.

There will be times when we can put in the work to make a weakness a strength.  Maybe it’s a muscle imbalance that we can work on in the gym, or a new product or technology that we can study up on.  If we can put in the work, and the new strength will make a strong impact in the future, then let’s do it!

Then, there will be other times when the work and effort required don’t make sense to try and overcome a weakness.  I know this sounds like a negative, but it’s actually not.  It’s just as important to put in the time to build a strength as it is to make the decision to let a weakness remain a weakness.

However, in these instances, we must learn to mitigate those weaknesses.  To be successful as a team or organization we can’t just bring in people that are replicas of ourselves and expect to be successful.  Sure, we will be really strong in some areas, but extremely weak in others.  Build your teams with star players that have the strengths to cover the current weaknesses.

Do the Expected – Put in the Work

When we are injured, demoted or dropped to second string, we must do what is expected and get back up, wipe ourselves off, and put in the work to get back on the field.

We know this is true – we just have to do it.  It’s a matter of what is necessary versus what is easy.

It is easy to feel sorry for yourself when you get hurt, or make up excuses as to why you lost your starting job or were passed over for this or that.

What is necessary is quieting the negative voices in your head, taking what you’ve learned from the experience, and taking action to improve, correct the mistakes and get yourself where you need to be to succeed going forward.

Do the Unexpected – Push Those Who Took Your Spot to Get Better

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?!

I bring this up for those of us in a team setting to remind us that – yes, you are part of a team, so act like it!

Again, it’s easier to be mad when someone takes your starting role or gets a promotion or spot on a team that you’ve been battling for…  However when it comes down to it, the team is bigger than any one individual.  If one play ago our goal was to win a Super Bowl, then just because I got hurt or pulled from the game doesn’t mean that is no longer the goal.

I can’t help but to think back to last year’s NFL season when Tony Romo was healthy enough after his injury to play, but Dak Prescott remained the starter given his success.  I have no doubt Romo wanted nothing more than to be out there, and could have let Dak figure it out on his own (and hopefully fail), but every time the camera showed the team’s sideline, Romo was there coaching him up and talking through what happened on the series before.  The individual goals were impacted, but the team’s goals were not.

Be a leader, help the person ahead of you, and put the team first.  Besides, when those ahead of us get better, it pushes us to elevate our own game as much or more.

Pay Attention

Even when we are stuck on the sidelines we can still learn from the experience.

Pay attention to those that are playing in your position, or are executing in the roles that you want to be in – study and understand how they operate.

What are they doing that makes them successful?  What are they great at and what are  they even doing wrong?

Learn from the successes and mistakes of others – it can accelerate your time to getting back on top.

Be Humble, Be Hungry

No matter what you do in life – whether you are at the bottom or the top – remain hungry, disciplined and focused on continual improvement until your last day.  The worst thing any of us can do is lose our hunger and drive to improve ourselves.

Along with that hunger, be humble in all that you do.

No matter how many things are going your way, we are all human and are not perfect.  We will make mistakes.  Yet, if we’ve been humble along the way and celebrated those who played a role in our path to success, then we can be confident that they will remain there for us in our times of need.  We can never accomplish our goals and realize our ambitions on our own.  Recognize and appreciate the team that helps you get to where you want to go.

The Road Ahead

I hope that you all keep battling your way towards your goals, dreams and personal versions of greatness, and don’t get tripped up, injured, or knocked down along the way.

However if you do, make the choice to turn the adversity into an opportunity, and build a better version of yourself when you come out the other side.

Get up, dust yourself off, become better, and get after it!

Discussion Question:  What currently has you sidelined in life?  What actions can you take to turn that setback into your comeback story?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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