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Bounce Back

How to Fail Fast and Be Resilient at Work

By Susan Kahn
13-minute read
Audio available
Bounce Back  by Susan Kahn

Bounce Back (2020) is an instruction manual for professionals faced by seemingly insurmountable workplace challenges. Drawing on business coach Susan Kahn’s insights into the psychology of resilience, these blinks explore strategies that will help you overcome setbacks and change your thinking. Along the way, you’ll find out what ancient Greek philosophy, Freudian psychoanalysis, and contemporary neuroscience can teach us about the art of resilience.  

  • Would-be risk-takers scared of failing 
  • Managers and team leaders 
  • Workers worried about disruptive changes

Susan Kahn is a business psychologist, coach, consultant, and mediator. She teaches at Birkbeck, University of London and is a faculty member at the School of Life. Kahn regularly works with individual and corporate clients looking to develop their potential as leaders or to resolve workplace conflict. Bounce Back is her first book.

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Bounce Back

How to Fail Fast and Be Resilient at Work

By Susan Kahn
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Bounce Back  by Susan Kahn
Synopsis

Bounce Back (2020) is an instruction manual for professionals faced by seemingly insurmountable workplace challenges. Drawing on business coach Susan Kahn’s insights into the psychology of resilience, these blinks explore strategies that will help you overcome setbacks and change your thinking. Along the way, you’ll find out what ancient Greek philosophy, Freudian psychoanalysis, and contemporary neuroscience can teach us about the art of resilience.  

Key idea 1 of 8

If you want to succeed, you should accept that you’re going to fail time and again.

In ancient Greece, merchants whose businesses failed were forced to sit in marketplaces with baskets over their heads. Seen by the crowds but unable to see themselves, they were ridiculed for their errors. Things weren’t much better in premodern Italy: in towns up and down the peninsula, failed businessmen were stripped naked and made to face the scorn of their jeering compatriots. 

Failure, in other words, has historically been treated harshly. Contemporary societies aren’t quite as brutal, and yet our fear of failure lives on. But failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

The key message here is: If you want to succeed, you should accept that you’re going to fail time and again.

Whatever the industry, professionals and organizations benefit when they learn from their failures. This is because, contrary to conventional wisdom, failure doesn’t make you less intelligent or able. In fact, the most accomplished and talented individuals and institutions routinely experience failure. They recognize that, as the psychologist Denis Waitley puts it, failure isn’t an “undertaker” – it’s a teacher.

Take it from basketball star Michael Jordan, one of the most successful players in the history of the sport. Looking back, Jordan sees his career as a series of failures. He missed over 9,000 shots, 26 of which were potential game-winners. He failed time and again. “That,” he said, “is why I succeed.”

Then there’s JK Rowling, one of the world’s most respected authors. Before Harry Potter became the global sensation it is today, her books were rejected by dozens of publishing houses. Or take Netflix. The on-demand video streaming service was first pitched to Blockbuster in 2000 for a fraction of its current value. Blockbuster turned it down. 

These kinds of failures provide a valuable lesson on the importance of self-belief and determination. Just think of Thomas Edison, the inventor of the lightbulb. He famously regarded each failure as a step in the right direction. With all these failed attempts he had found 10,000 ways that wouldn’t work!

But even though failure is so important, not everyone will respond to it in an encouraging and supportive way. Some stakeholders, like bosses or clients, will inevitably be upset. So it’s very important to develop a system that encourages risks and failures, but which also avoids a breakdown in relations. Call it fail fast. We’ll explore this idea in the next blink.

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