Mark Scott - Why you can’t let setbacks destroy your dreams Featured

10:10pm EDT December 18, 2013
Mark Scott, Senior Associate Editor, Smart Business Chicago Mark Scott, Senior Associate Editor, Smart Business Chicago

What happens when all your hopes, your dreams and all your excitement about the future are smashed to pieces in an instant? One moment you’re on the road to being the best in the world and the next — well, you feel empty.

As we begin 2014, many fans of the Chicago Bulls are still processing feelings of despair and heartbreak over the loss of Derrick Rose to a second major knee injury in less than two years. The devastating injury on Nov. 22 leaves the Bulls on a similar path to the one the team followed last season. Rose’s teammates will likely step it up again and grind out wins under the leadership of Coach Tom Thibodeau.

Chance of a miracle fades

They won’t give up on their dreams of a title, but realistically, the Bulls are out of the running as far as this season is concerned. And unlike last season, when many held out hope Rose would come back and save the day, there is no expectation of a miracle this time.

So what do you do when there is seemingly no hope to achieve the goals you had set for yourself or your organization?

There are a number of business leaders who look at the current state of the U.S. economy and see no hope. They see companies laying off employees, and others shuttering branch offices or cutting back on what they do.

Things just aren’t going to get better, they mutter to themselves. We’ll keep going out there every day to crank out the widgets and sell to the customers we’ve got, but we’re never going to be the business we thought we were going to be.

If that’s the attitude you take toward your company, you’re right. You never will be that business of your dreams. Going back to the Bulls, some people wouldn’t blame Rose’s teammates if they didn’t work quite as hard at practice or didn’t take that charge under the basket. The odds that they’ll win an NBA title this year are slim.

But they haven’t given up and they haven’t stopped fighting for every loose ball. Part of it is no doubt the leadership of Thibodeau who won’t let them simply go through the motions before trying again next season.

Optimism must step in

You can’t dwell on the things that are holding you back and then use those obstacles as an excuse for your failures. Change your strategy. Find another way to reach new customers or develop new products and services. Look for other ways you can meet the needs of the customers you already have.

Most importantly, come into work with a sense of optimism about the future and about what your business can be.

One cautionary note: This doesn’t mean you lie to your employees or pretend that the challenges your business faces don’t exist. All that does is make you seem out of touch and deflate the confidence of your people. Be realistic about those challenges, but engage your team to find solutions. Allow them to show the talent that led you to hire them in the first place.

If you have to reset your goals, then do it.

Just don’t give up. When you do that, there really is no hope.

Mark Scott is senior associate editor of Smart Business Chicago. If you have an interesting story to share about a person or business making a difference in Chicago, please send an email to