Whether you are an in a slump at work, looking for work or feeling burnt out in your current environment the feeling of failure sucks. It gnaws at your self-confidence and wastes time that could be used productively on the worst of vices: victimhood. Nonetheless failure is something that afflicts almost every successful individual at some point in their lives, so what do you do when experiencing failure?

Although gaining perspective and practicing personal empowerment is vital, too much “self-help” is often a disservice to many people that are stuck. Watching motivational videos will not get you unstuck. Reading about success, though more concrete than YouTube, will not get you unstuck. Taking action and learning to produce wins in your life will.

This might seem as abstract as the motivational videos I just bemoaned.  Fear not, here’s the meat.

Step 1: Focus on something controllable where you can win. A great place to start is with your physical health. Start exercising, start eating right and start getting 7+ hours a sleep a night. Will this transform your life? Probably not. What it will do is start netting you the “wins” that you are missing in life. Unlike so much in life, diet and exercise are largely controllable and measurable. No luck and very little skill (thanks internet) is required to succeed at this. Just willpower, drive and PATIENCE. Build your first wins here.


Step 2: The most glaring issue with motivational content is the lack of substance. Believing in yourself and pursuing your passions won’t bring you an inch closer to success if it isn’t accompanied with a growth in your skillset. Focus on learning something finite. If you aren’t sure where you want to go next, grab something that is as low cost as possible. There are countless free resources online to learn to code. Or maybe you are interested in marketing? Go learn about SEO, landing page optimization, Google Adwords, etc.  Whatever it is, work on it in a structured manner.  Take notes.  Engage with friends and family about what you’re learning. The best way to retain information is to build connections around it and apply it.

Step 3: Start now. If you are in a job you hate and are constantly feeling drained, it’s probably time to shift gears. But in the interim, make “wins” in the environment you are in.  If that is completely untenable, work hard to make “wins” outside of your work. During my first post-grad job my ability to be innovative and impactful in my position was severely limited. So I adapted and shifted into contributing in another department, finding my “win” there (writing copy for a major ad campaign). Once I decided the job wasn’t the best fit and left to pursue entrepreneurial ventures I knew I had to score some personal wins while working on a long-term project. So I taught myself finite skills. I read obsessively.  I ran a marathon and got into the best shape I had been in for years. Life is too short to delay creating your “wins”.

Step 4: Keep records. One of the best methods to validate your efforts and encourage a mindset of confidence is to see empirical results. It’s pretty amazing how small “wins” in our everyday lives can totally shift our outlook. It can be things as small as cleaning your house, completing a module of online education or getting out several solid job applications. Keep records and it will push you to not only better yourself but stay encouraged by your small victories. Make scheduling your friend and idle time your enemy. When you are in a rut, force yourself to earn that free time.

Step 5: Differentiate.  In Peter Thiel’s book “Zero to One” the prolific founder of Paypal and Palantir talks about the vital importance of a highly differentiated workforce. Even within the same department Thiel would constantly strive to assign responsibility for different tasks to certain employees based on their skills. One individual may be a brilliant seller but terrible at management. Another might revolutionize the company’s processes and improve team productivity, all while struggling to bring in sales. What’s important here is that by properly allowing people to play to their strengths, those people inevitably get more “wins” and wins build loyalty, job satisfaction and results for the company.  As an individual don’t be scared to show management what you can do outside of your job scope if your skills are there. A good manager will recognize the effort and reward you accordingly.