How Entrepreneurs Turn Negative Experiences Into Positive Lessons

Social psychology professor Roy F. Baumeister summed it up pretty well in the article “Bad Is Stronger Than Good.” In short, the article tells us that bad experiences and feedback have a more profound and longer-lasting impact than good ones.

This is supported by the work of Professor Teresa Amabile, of Harvard University, as highlighted by the New York Times. Through her research Amabile also found that the negative effect of a setback at work on levels of happiness is over twice as strong as the positive effect.

Self-reflection can be a paradox. Whilst personal analysis can be beneficial, endless rumination on negative experiences and dwelling most certainly is not.

Happy and determined entrepreneur

In today’s highly volatile job-market it has been said that the average worker will have seven careers. Within each career an individual is additionally likely to have a number of various positions, with each role a plentitude of different responsibilities. All this sets the stage for a wealth of job experiences, and not all of these will be good.

The silver-lining is that with such experiences resonating deeply, turning these moments into learning opportunities can enable an individual to grow. As Baumeister theorizes, it comes down to survival of the fittest, and we are inherently programmed to adapt and learn.

Our industry leaders share their stories

“I was once hired to troubleshoot a very complex problem for a company. I found the problem all right – but the client felt it made them look like idiots. The whole company had grown up around this dysfunction, to the point where nobody was even aware of it.

Since then, I’ve learned the value of storytelling, including setting the context, and highlighting the value of a better way forward.”

– Scott Rummler, ESPforME

“My worst job experience occurred under the pressure of recruiting, as the company I was working for was expanding immensely at a fast pace. I was eager to find people for all the right reasons, and inevitably, I wasn’t as picky with my choices as I’ve been with them in the past.

The “worst” part came months after recruiting them, when they finished their training. Though many developed into excellent workers, others showed no signs of improvement. They had to be re-trained, received a lot of professional attention from senior team members, and some had to be dismissed.

Plenty of resources were spent during this process, causing a lot of frustration for both parties, which could have been prevented by recruiting more proficient employees, at a tad slower pace. This valuable lesson, whilst costly at the time was memorable. It is a something I have kept in mind as I grow my own business.”

– Alon Rajic, Finofin LTD

“My worst job experience was at the age of 16 years, working in a fast food restaurant. I ran the grill flipping burgers all day long, getting burned by grease and putting out fires.

I was friendly, well-spoken, and polite and would have been much better suited to a customer-facing role working on the cashier. The restaurant, however, made of point of only putting women up front. I remember this lesson every time I hire or someone approaches me for a job. I want to make sure that person’s talents are being used in the best way possible, both for them and our business.”

– Rasheen Carbin, nspHire

Having a business conversation
photo credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg / Flickr

“My last boss right before starting ETNY was a micro manager. Up until then, I had always had bosses that gave me the freedom to define my own work objectives that best suited the company or department. It was a startling change, which quickly wore me down and eventually pushed me to become an entrepreneur. I am very careful at ETNY not to become that person. I trust my employees by default and those that require micro management don’t last very long here.”

– Jordan Wills, ETNY

“My worst job experience was probably my first job, a lifeguard at an indoor pool, which amongst hours of just sitting around also involved large amounts of cleaning. I found the total lack of productivity and responsibility completely uninspiring.

Thanks to that I really do appreciate pretty much every job I’ve done since, but particularly running my own business. Obviously, it comes with a different set of pressures but the freedom you have and ability to be creative to solve problems everyday really is great. My experience taught me something about myself, what sort of work I am suited to and enables me to develop.”

– James Mundy, Foundbite

“For a short time, while attending university, I was a system administrator for a private school. It was a part-time job that included preparing computers to be operational for the student’s classes.

Unfortunately, most of the work had to happen in the evening hours when the lab was quiet. I remember waiting for hours while software installed and the frustrations in fighting with machines to keep them operational because of low quality components that couldn’t handle regular abuse. When one of my close friends developed software that automated the installs and set securities in place, it cut my job in half.

With Savvi, we have made a conscious decision to provide products with quality components and easy to use interfaces. We have learned that time is valuable and if technology can help free it up, then use it!”

– Brodie Kalamen, Savvi Solutions