Why We Must Cherish Our Setbacks

We mistakenly view setbacks as throwing us off course but that’s just too short a timescale on which to judge them…

In the ‘Sound of Music’ Julie Andrews takes the Von Trapp children frolicking through the Austrian meadows (the hills are alive!). This image is a great metaphor for life without setbacks, a gently sloping hill rounding into a flat, grassy plain.

We mistakenly think setbacks throw us off this course.

But the meadow is not our destination. Setbacks are the way to the summit.

David & Goliath

The forward propulsion after a setback is much steeper than could be achieved without one. There are 2 steps back but then 5 steps forward.

Merely plodding looks like 1 step forward, 1 step, 0 steps, ½…you don’t get a 5 step jump.

Now, do you think a rock gets upset when it’s being pulled back in a slingshot?

The further back it goes the happier it gets.

So maybe rocks aren’t so dumb after all.

The Towel Boy

There is a simple way to avoid them. Never engage in anything difficult, challenging or new. Never love, never try to change, never care.

A setback can only be had by running a course with obstacles. If you never try to clear them you’ll never have setbacks.

I guess that’s one way.

And Lincoln

Here are four possible versions of Abraham Lincoln’s life.

Poverty, bankrupt.

Poverty, bankrupt, nervous breakdown.

Poverty, bankrupt, nervous breakdown, lose 18 elections.

Poverty, bankrupt, nervous breakdown, lose 18 elections, President of the United States of America.


Like the cry of a newborn baby a setback is a sign of life. Congrats, you’re in the game.

If you’re expectation is to avoid them then you’re aiming too low.

We’d be better served if we just started calling them what they are: ‘Tries’.