Setback or Comeback? (Encouragement for Creators)

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How we face failure can determine our future success. If you’re a creator and you accept rejection or defeat as the end of the line, you’re not going to get very far in life. We can view failure either as an impassible roadblock, or simply as a detour.

No one ever plans to take a detour, but sometimes a detour can put us on a different track that leads to better places and bigger opportunities. Mistakes and false starts aren’t necessarily the worst thing that can happen to us. Losing heart and throwing in the towel IS!  T.D. Jakes once said, “A setback is a setup for a comeback!” This is certainly true in the case of a draftsman named Milton Bradley.

Bradley was born in Maine on November 8, 1836, and grew up in a working-class household in Massachusetts. After completing high school in 1854, Bradley quickly found work as a draftsman and patent agent. Once he’d earned the tuition fees, he enrolled in the Lawrence Scientific School in Cambridge.

In 1856, Bradley got a job with Blanchard & Kimball’s locomotive works in Springfield, Massachusetts. A nice steady job with a good future — or so he thought. During the economic recession of 1858, the company offices closed, and Bradley suddenly found his career opportunities extremely limited. So he followed the example of other enterprising young men who couldn’t get a job: he entered business for himself — doing what he knew best, working as a mechanical draftsman and patent agent.

But there still was a recession! In 1859, Bradley went to Providence, RI to learn lithography. Armed with yet another skill, he set up a color lithography shop the following year, in Springfield. It was the first of its kind in the city, a business that just had to succeed. Or not! Bradley was about to encounter his greatest setback, and suffer a financial blow that might have signaled the end of his entrepreneurial career.

Springfield was the stomping ground — er, stumping ground? — of a little-known Republican who was about to run for president of the United States. Bradley decided to print and sell color lithographs of the presidential nominee, and the venture proved quite successful — initially. The prints were selling like hotcakes until the man depicted in Bradley’s lithographs did something that completely changed his appearance. The guy grew a thick and distinctively shaped beard. Suddenly, Bradley’s not-so-loyal customers were demanding their money back, arguing that the lithograph was no longer an accurate depiction of the man they all hoped would be their next Commander-in-Chief — Abraham Lincoln! Realizing the prints were now essentially worthless, Bradley burned his remaining stock.

While sitting in his office, trying to figure out how he could possibly recoup this financial loss, poor Bradley decided to give his fevered brain a little break, by playing a board game a friend had given him. Playing the game and contemplating the ups and downs of life, business and success, Milton Bradley suddenly got the idea that would forever change his fortunes and jumpstart a business that prospers to this day!

The draftsman-turned-patent agent-turned-lithographer created The Checkered Game of Life. He released his new board game shortly before Christmas in 1860. Its sales were AMAZING!

Today, people are still playing The Game of Life, along with other Milton Bradley Company games such as Operation and Battleship. All because a hard working entrepreneur chose to view a financial setback as an opportunity for a creative comeback!

“…The LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you.” (Deuteronomy 23:5 ESV)

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Got Aggravations? No Sweat! (Diet for Dreamers)

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Smile and the world smiles back at you! Right? Well, not always. Our society has its fair share of scrooges and sourpusses, bigots and bad seeds.

We can’t control how people will treat us in this life. We can’t make them value us or our work. We have no control over whether they will value us or show us respect. And we should never try to force any of these things! We have better things to do than dealing with the shortcomings of those bad eggs we daily encounter. For one, we should be far more concerned, and far busier, about the business of pursuing our dreams and achieving our goals.

We can’t change people or their perceptions. But we CAN control how we’ll respond to their treatment. We can let their stares and suspicious looks, their critical comments and nasty attitudes, penetrate and get under our skin — or we can let it all bounce off our backs as we face new horizons and explore promising opportunities. In other words, we don’t need to spend any precious time or emotional energy on what others are saying. Ignore Negative Nancy, Bobby Bad-mouther, Pessimistic Patty, Jealous Johnny, Debbie Downer, and Arguing Andy.

Nothing can zap your peace and creativity faster than being around these “foul friends” and engaging in their toxic emotions. We can “entertain” thoughts of frustration, anger, unforgiveness, and rejection — and allow such strong emotions to poison us and our prospects; or we can choose to “flip the channel” and get on with more important stuff. Big stuff, not “small stuff”!

In his book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Dr. Richard Carlson, Ph.D. states: “The first step in becoming a more peaceful person is to have the humility to admit that, in most cases, you’re creating your own emergencies. Life will usually go on if things don’t go according to plan.” Beyond our social interactions, a few of the other things that often tend NOT to go as we planned are our schedules, the weather, the price of gas, the traffic conditions, even the lines at the grocery store. We can’t change these things, so we need to have a victorious attitude concerning them.

Dr. Carlson suggests several tips for a victorious attitude. For instance:

“Life is not an emergency”! We don’t need the added pressure of feeling we must achieve a certain number of things each day. This perception keeps us in a frenzy. So chill! Tomorrow’s another day.

“Refuse to let it bug you”: no matter what someone else says or believes, when you get down to it, it’s JUST their opinion. Should you allow their erroneous, misinformed, or biased opinions to get in your way? Of course not!

“See the innocence”: people are flawed, just like us. They’ve experienced their own hurts and disappointments, and these feelings often come out in their words and actions. Understanding this is another big step toward not being offended.

“Think of your problems as potential teachers”: we can learn something from every “kooky character” we meet, every “sorry circumstance” we find ourselves in. If we allow God to work in us, He will grow peace, patience, love and forgiveness from the dirt of our adversity.

But the best tip we can give you comes from God’s Word: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3 NLT)

Dwell on God’s faithfulness and His goodness, not on your problems and other people. Don’t waste your emotional (and creative) energy fretting over “fouls”; or attempting to fix your friends (or “enemies”)! Concentrate on God’s destiny for your life. Don’t sweat the small stuff — and as Dr. Carlson states, “And it’s all small stuff.”

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