Redefining Success through Disappointment and How Recognition Can Help

By Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer, Greatness Magnified

Can I confess something to you?

I hate disappointment.

image of white sand with a sad face written in the sand to represent hateThey say hate is a strong word. I fully embrace the strength of that word, and I still stand firm. I. Hate. Disappointment.

And I am an equal opportunity of this hatred of it.

  • I hate it when others fail to deliver.
  • I hate it when my seemingly great ideas don’t work out.
  • I hate it when I doubt myself and what matters most, such as my parenting.
  • I hate it when my business has ups and downs (even if they are expected).
  • I hate it when I feel disappointed.

Disappointment is the snarky emotion that runs shotgun for any high achiever. Fellow high achievers, do you know what I’m talking about?

When we say things like, “Don’t forget to celebrate” and “We can get on board with this,” it’s not because we have such high expectations that we’re pathologically unable to celebrate the wins. Heck, we live for those wins. We roll around in them like a pig in mud but with a lot more jazz hands and perhaps even a glass of Chardonnay in those hands (please celebrate responsibly…). And if we’re truly confessing, it’s reasoning for me.

It doesn’t take much to feel the sting of disappointment.

Of your ideas, seven were brilliant, one was terrible, and two were crushing. Which gets most of our attention – emotionally and possibly cognitively – in your big, beautiful brain? The ones that didn’t work.

Now, we know that we “shouldn’t” (the whole “should” thing is the arch enemy of any coach…the word should be like swearing in the kindergarten class around a professional coach). Many of us who are coaches, leaders, parents, and, yes, motivational speakers all know that the lows are not only expected; they are our greatest teachers! They force us to slow down and evaluate. They get us off autopilot and make us examine our life. We may go kicking and screaming into the process, but we’ve learned from experience that the faster we do that, the faster we will get out of the victim cycle.

Let’s face it, though. It takes so much energy to manage the experience of disappointment and what to do with it that, at some point, we wonder if it is better to have lower expectations. We start to romanticize and flirt with the idea that had we been given the gift of being a “chill” person or that if we could select any superpower, it would be “zen master”. Oh, what would that be like? Would we ever have to battle with disappointment? What might it be like not to be surprised every time disappointment showed up?

What would it be like to break up with your disappointment?

image of a black woman with a look of disappointment on her faceIt would be terrible.
You wouldn’t be you.
You wouldn’t experience the rebound, creative energy when you recognize that disappointment cycle and it gets you into action.
You wouldn’t have that as a signpost of what’s important to you.
You wouldn’t have your comeback story as a mere mortal but somebody who went to battle with something that mattered to you.

And you wouldn’t get better at it every time you had to battle in that arena.

If your past self could see you now, it would say you were so successful because you always knew when you had to do better, different, and just simply something else. When you look back on your life and all the times you felt disappointed, your younger self would say, “Yep, that was a key flashpoint in your life, and thank you for having travelled it, because damn, I think I can do and overcome just about anything.”

Disappointment. The emotion nobody wants, ironically, that jet fuel of high achievers.

Disappointed unite!

Have you ever been in a work environment where you have collective disappointment? It can mean a lack of collaboration, tension, finger-pointing, gossip, and other nasty stuff that makes you fantasize about winning the lottery and spending the rest of your time on a yacht with the personal butler.

These other moments where disappointment will either make you shine as a team, or come in as the vehicle that will reinforce all of the problems and unaddressed situations if left unfixed.

Do you know why people turn against each other rather than lean into disappointment? Because you can stare at another person, name their behaviour, and decide that they are the problem. That’s why we turned in words, too. We hear it in our head, we’ve heard it before, and we realize there’s something wrong with us, because otherwise, why would we keep hearing and seeing and experiencing the same thing over and over again like a record with a great big scratch in it?

image of a tray of smores and a toasted marshmallow sitting on a log tableDisappointment can be the single most important emotion that everyone in a team or organization can claim. It can be the thing that everybody gathers around. It’s the corporate campfire, so to speak. Bring your problem marshmallows, your pointy stick, and your expired chocolate to roast a nasty shame s’more. Let’s make something different out of all of these messy ingredients. And let’s make it something that we can look back on and go, do you remember when that happened? That turned out to be pretty fun and delicious.

We have many ways to help individuals, teams, and organizations avoid being encumbered by disappointment and reap all the benefits of high expectations. Reach out to us. We get you, and we’re here for you.

Here are even more delicious ways for you to move through disappointment:

Disclaimer/Humble Brag Moment: 100% of this content was human-generated (by us folks here at Greatness Magnified). We are committed to authorship integrity and will inform you what percent, if any, is AI-generated.

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Deb Rakonjac

Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

"Sarah nailed it!  She worked with the planning group to learn about the organization, the audience, the desired key messages and integrated it seamlessly into her keynote. Her energy was contagious! We received rave reviews of this portion of our event and Sarah was able to speak to all members of our organization in a way that motivated them to recognize others everyday. Our executives were extraordinarily pleased and integrated FROGging into their recent board meeting. Purolator is grateful to Sarah for dropping the pebble and we continue to see the ripples from this session across the organization. Working with Tami was phenomenal and the supports were easy to integrate to ensure the session went well. Thanks to you both!!"
Douglas D Swift

President & CEO, Swiftco Inc.

"I have had the Sarah experience in numerous settings: As a keynote, around a table with several other business owners, one on one over coffee, chatting with others at a conference reception, dining with a small group of colleagues. No matter the setting you always get the same Sarah: engaging, attentive, interested, inspiring, motivational, genuine. And always with an infectious smile. Do yourself, your company, your association a favour. Get the Greatness Magnified (Sarah) experience. The payback is priceless."
Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

Some of the Great Organizations We Serve