The Transformative Power of Disappointment



Luke told me he had found the perfect company. Every person he talked with felt similarly about his philosophy of work and he couldn't be more excited. Nine interviews later, he capped the process by talking with the Chief Executive Officer. Possibility was in the air.

Then, a member of the Advisory Team decided not to move forward. Without even learning anything about him. If this ever happened to you, your first reaction would be disappointment. Push beyond that, and you'll find generosity and trust.

How's that possible? To have your heart set and broken, and to feel grateful?


Discovering a greater pattern

“What we call disappointment is just the first stage of our emancipation into the next greater pattern of existence,” says David Whyte. In Consolations, the poet meditates on the meaning of simple words like truth, beauty, honesty, giving, joy, gratitude, but also heartbreak.

Disappointment is a friend to transformation,

a call to both accuracy and generosity

in the assessment of our self and others,

a test of sincerity, a catalyst of resilience.

Words are powerful. You can level up simply through their appropriate use. In the meaning of everyday words, Whyte explores the conversational nature of reality. Disappointment is thus the conversation between what we fantasize about an ideal and what reality asks of us.


“The measure of our courage is the measure of our willingness to embrace disappointment, to turn towards it rather than away, the understanding that every real conversation of life involves having our hearts broken somewhere along the way and there is no sincere path we can follow where we will not be fully and immeasurably let down and brought down to earth, and where what initially looks like  betrayal, puts real ground under our feet.”

Disappointment is an open invitation to gaining a firmer ground on our self. Every single time, I've had a stretch of difficulties, a higher reward was on the other side. The key is keeping perspective, take action and reflection in equal measure, and keep going.


Putting things in the proper perspective

“I'm a happy man because I love life, the sun, the moon, sunrise and sunset, gardens and laws with new growth,” says Luciano Pavarotti. 25 years ago, he was already very clear on who and what creates value. His life was about music. Music is love, the most beautiful and important thing in the world.

Thus, if you're not having fun playing, you shouldn't make music. Pavarotti & Friends was a series of concerts the tenor organized in Modena, my hometown. When he asked, everyone said 'no,' then they all participated. Because it was fun, or zu spaß, as the presenter says, and for a good cause. Bono singing in Italian, unmissable.

I'm very rich, because I'm lucky,” he responds in the interview. This reminded him a conversation between Alexander Fleming, the Scottish physician and microbiologist who discovered penicillin and his wife, Sarah Marion McElroy.

“Dear, now we're happy; one day we'll be rich, said Fleming

No, she responded, “Today we're rich; one day we'll have money.

Perhaps it's worth revisiting this word, disappointment.

Rather than it being the not meeting of one's expectations, for whatever reason or person, it could become the harbinger of things to come. From unfortunate, to fortunate—being spared the one situation in favor of another you don't quite see just yet.

But that you'll encounter, if you keep active.


[image via photosforyou, Zurich]


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