12 Ways to Reframe Setbacks as Opportunities

Speaking at the convocation of the United Negro College Fund in Indianapolis in 1959, John F. Kennedy said, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters – one represents danger, and one represents opportunity.”

From a purely linguistic perspective, Kennedy was wrong about what those particular Chinese characters actually represent.

JFK wasn’t the first to make this mistake, and many others have made it since. The trope has been repeated by journalists, bloggers, motivational speakers, and politicians for decades.

When Winners Quit and Quitters Prosper

Back when Warren Buffett’s net worth was a mere $10,000, he sank 20 percent of it into a Sinclair service station in Omaha. Unfortunately, it was across the street from a well-established Texaco station with very loyal customers, and Buffett’s station simply could not compete.

Bill Gates’ and Paul Allen’s first entrepreneurial collaboration was a machine that automated vehicle traffic data collection. It worked, and they attracted some paying municipal clients. Soon, though, states began freely providing their traffic data to local governments, obliterating the now-famous duo’s business model.

Mark Cuban once had the idea that since powdered milk was cheaper by the gallon than regular milk – and, in his opinion, tasted just as good – it would be a booming business and his big break. It wasn’t.

Stop the Hedonic Treadmill by Setting Better Goals

We’ve all read stories about lottery winners who hit it big and soon lose everything. Sometimes they end up in debt, on the street, or incarcerated. Sometimes they even take their own lives.

For the lottery winners who end up this way, it is usually a combination of unwise behaviors that leads to their downfall. They impulsively give far too much to friends, family, churches, or charity. They go on wild spending sprees. They often engage in substance abuse and degenerate gambling.

However, despite some misleading statistics that are often repeated online – such as the urban legend that 70 percent of lottery winners end up in bankruptcy – a decidedly small percentage of big-prize lottery winners actually end up squandering it all.

In Luck We Trust: Believe to Receive

Luck has fascinated philosophers for millennia.

Solon believed that all human success was just good luck, while Democritus consistently downplayed the influence of luck on people’s lives. Aristotle devoted a great deal of thought to luck, and considered the topic at length in his texts on ethics and physics.

People still debate the existence of luck, its nature, and the extent of its influence on the outcome of human affairs.

Whether we believe in the existence of luck largely depends on how we view the concept of luck.

Is luck an external force or a personal attribute? Is it stable or unpredictable? Is it nothing more than a way for us to frame happenstance in terms of whether the result was favorable or unfavorable?

How to Have a Hopeful New Year

January is in the books.

Most people, however, would still consider this the “new year.” Yet, most people have likely already broken one or more of their New Year’s resolutions.

The good news, though, is that even if many people fail at maintaining them over time, New Year’s resolutions have still been shown to be quite successful for helping people resolve problem behaviors without professional treatment.[1]

One study showed that 77 percent of resolvers maintained their behavioral commitments for one week, 55 percent for one month, and 40 percent for six months.[2]

So, what causes the unsuccessful resolvers to derail, while so many others can persist and see their resolutions through?

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