Getting Over Disappointment

Note: The winners of the creativity coaching will be announced tomorrow. So you can still leave a comment on yesterday’s blog to be eligible.)

A few weeks ago, a class that I was looking forward to teaching didn’t make. For those of you who don’t teach, “not making” means not enough people enrolled to make the class worthwhile for the location or for me. For an instructor, it’s a blow–to income, to pride, to the schedule.

In my case, the Inner Critic (after all, I spent most of last year writing about the topic) showed up with the usual bus of relatives to tell me that . . . well, you can imagine. You have an Inner Critic, too.

An ancient Chinese stone seal. The writing says, "Do not become complacent with victory; do not become frustrated with defeat."

An ancient Chinese stone seal. The writing says, “Do not become complacent with victory; do not become frustrated with defeat.”

And because I am well-trained by the Inner Critic, I listened and began to follow that bitter and logical voice. Maybe I should stop teaching. How will I ever reach my audience if the classes don’t make? I’m sure you’ve got your own list. And that’s the point to today’s blog. There are better questions to ask yourself after a disappointment.

The first one is my favorite:

1. What did I want to happen? Well, let’s see, I wanted the class to be full, and everyone happy to experiment and eager to work. I imagined happy faces and great art results. That alone cheered me up.

2. How would the class have achieved that? Once I had the happy class in mind, I imagined them working on the project I planned, and in three minutes realized that I wanted to change some things about the class. Now, this is a habit I have, that no class is the same one twice, and that fiddling with the class content is something I do regularly. That put me in the feeling of doing something familiar and fun.

3. “What’s the worst that could happen here?” This is really a grim question. I used to ask it all the time to prepare myself. Instead, I asked, “What’s the best that could come from this?” The answers surprised me–more time to update the class, create a handout with a bonus extra, and run the class closer to the new book launch.

4. Where does it hurt? In my case, pain of failure always hurts in my chest. That was an immediate need. A few deep breathing exercises helped, and a walk made the pain leak out of my body.

Disappointment is a part of every life. How fast we bounce back determines how fast we recover and move on.

—Quinn McDonald would have been happier teaching the class. Having the opportunity to make it better is a gift.


28 thoughts on “Getting Over Disappointment

  1. It seems to me there are three kinds of disappointments:
    1. the things you wanted to happen that didn’t but you’re really not involved (your favorite team doesn’t win the championship)
    2. the things you tried to accomplish but didn’t, and upon examination there wasn’t really anything you could have done (that CPU/bus combination was just never going to be able to keep up with 30 fps) (just trust me on that one)
    3. OK you screwed up (ok, now I get it, you can’t substitute fennel SEEDS for fennel) (you can trust me on this as well)

    I think you can take completely different lessons from these:
    1. So what, keep on keeping on
    2. Maybe you need to learn more about things you didn’t realize were related
    3. You’ve already learned something. Just look to see what it is.

    (Kent is rofl about my fennel confusion, right?)

    • Kent and I have an agreement about fennel in any form–not in the house. I do not like green fennel seeds. I do not like green fennel leaves. I will not eat the tight-packed bulb, Not even if threatened with a club. And yes, all the above thoughts work in some form or another because they keep you moving ahead.

      • You do not like those fennel leaves.
        Not on a plate. Not up your sleeves.
        You will not eat the bulb of fennel,
        Not in a house. Or barn. Or kennel.
        You would not eat it any way.
        Not next week. Not today.

  2. Great questions to cope with any disappointment Quinn. The last one is essential to move on. My experience tells me that if I don’t sit with my demons and ease their pain they’ll hang around until I do . . . they’re hurt child parts of me that need looking after. I just posted a journal page about this.

  3. When you are an artist of any kind you need to get used to rejection. However, it always makes you feel a little negative. I try to remind myself that it is usually just the wrong place, wrong time, and rejected works sometimes only need another venue to succeed. In the case of a class, perhaps simply the wrong timing.

  4. Thanks for this helpful entry Quinn. I can certainly identify with the situation, and it’s good to be reminded of the positive sides that might come from a class not happening after I’ve planned for it and looked forward to it. I’ve never thought about how it may happen to others and what they might feel – so its also good to get out of myself and connect with other teachers’ feelings.

  5. I’m sorry your class didn’t make. Sort of. If it had of gone off as planned, we the readers, would not have gotten to read this very useful, very inspirational post. I am printing a copy for my Commonplace book.

    I love the way that the broken eggs in your life end up becoming fluffy, flavorful omelets!

    • For all the “realistic” way I prepare for events, I am an eternal optimist, and yes, Ray, I believe as you and Lin do–this is an opportunity to learn something and that “broken egg” is going to be my next collage!

  6. When I was a contract trainer, it always brought me down for a couple of days when a class didn’t fill and was cancelled–esp. the time I was walking out the door to my cab when the no-go call came. I learned not to count on that money ahead of time, but losing income is a big problem when you’ve spent time negotiating, preparing, etc. I have to believe–and I hope it’s true for you–that a project doesn’t happen because an even better one with even nicer people is around the corner. xox

  7. never give up neer give up… etc Winston Churchill. I am sure he had many moments when he COULD have given up but did not..persistence and determination will always prevail. and run off that Inner Critic!

  8. It is disappointing when classes don’t run as scheduled. I’ve had that happen too and sometimes I am really sad about it. But I have learned that when it happens I suddenly have this free time that I hadn’t planned on and that is often very much needed (since I tend to over schedule myself) and I figure the universe is telling me I should take some time to myself. 🙂

    • I must admit, I love love that sudden amount of open time, and sometimes I spend time in the studio doing new things, instead of making samples. That IS a nice side effect!

  9. I love your process of getting over disappointment. I am going to print this one out and hang it over my desk at work to read regularly. I think your classes would be interesting to take, unfortunately they are too far away from where I live.

  10. I think you have a pretty good process there! Anyone who says they never need approval of some kind is lying. And not getting it happens to everybody too, it’s just a question what you choose to do with it. I wonder if it ever becomes completely easy to just suck it up immediately and keep going?

    • I’ve often wondered about that, Pia. At first I thought maturity would bring that, then I blamed my ego, but I think every instructor who deeply cares about the topic they teach wants to have other people love that topic, too. And have a good time. That’s the thing–I know that they would have a good time. But it’s not all up to me.

        • Maybe, and it’s worth examining. The Inner Critic is not always wrong. But he always blames and points to lack and attack. From teaching a long time, I know that positive reinforcement has better results than negative. Even for teachers.

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