When Things Go Wrong For Those Who Step Up

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For years I have found it inspiring to read the stories and biographies of those who became leaders, pioneers, and people of great influence. I have read how they faced challenges and overcame them. I have read how they rose above their problems and history and heritage to forge new paths, new ideas, and new ways of living. These tales of inspiration speak about those who conquered and often conquered, against all odds, like Helen Keller.

Yet in this reading, there was a pattern that has recently come to my awareness that I never noticed. I suppose I was focused on their positive attitude, their never-say-die attitude, their “eye of the tiger” motivation that allowed them to tap into energies, passions, and potentials that they didn’t even know that they had. Perhaps I was simply caught up in the stories so much that I just missed this other pattern that now seems so predominate that I can hardly believe that I missed it.

What is this pattern? Let me see if I can put it in words. To put it in words, it goes something like this. If you are going to follow your own passion, stand up and do some good – if you are going to lead out in something that’s important and meaningful to you – you are going to have problems, conflicts, enemies, criticism, insult, and people actively out to hurt you and bring you down.Things are going to go wrong when you step up to do right.

One of the biographies that really brings this out is the two books of auto-biography from Lance Armstrong. When I naively first began reading, I had not even thought that much about the context of biking and racing. So reading about people in the audience stepping out to throw stones, bricks and other things to hurt the one leading the pack or of people stepping out with a baseball bat to make sure a key contender for the title would not win – well, that was a real shock. My immediate thought was, “Hey, it’s a bicycle race! Give me a break. Don’t be so serious.” But then I found out that for those in that world, it is not just a bicycle race, but a multi-million dollar business involving big corporations, advertisers, promoters, and so on. So a lot was at stake. A lot in terms of money, reputations, team pride, and more.

The same with the “anti-drugging” people and how they absolutely hounded and harassed Armstrong who in more than a dozen years never failed one drug test. They would show up at his home or hotel at all times of night and day and treat him as if he was already guilty and trying to hide the facts from them. They would test him repeatedly with the most aggressive of attitudes. And they would take that same aggressive attitude as they would hold press conferences saying that they had questions about Armstrong’s drugging, which was totally unfounded.

Why would people devote such energy to try to hurt someone living his or her passion? I began trying to account for it. Let’s see, I think I could count this up as being small-minded, a toxic bout of jealousy, hate and hatefulness, a feeling of inferiority that feels one builds himself up by pulling someone else down, meanness, etc.

Nor did I understand any of this when I first encountered it. After creating the Meta-States model, there were lots of people who took it and ran with it. They validated its value and praised it in various parts of the world. Then others, who somehow seemed threatened by that praise and publicity, seemed to have found their calling— to make it their business to bring the model down, to bring me down with it, to criticise it, to criticise me personally, and in a word, to try their best to cast every form of insult they could upon it. I didn’t expect that. So at first it surprised me. No, that’s not the right word. It shocked me.

And because there were typos and grammatical errors in books and articles I was turning out at a fast pace, this became the focus of the criticism. Then, of course, some leaped from those facts to draw the conclusion that the model itself was flawed, inadequate, shoddy, and without merit. I was stunned that such small-minded criticism would even get published. I couldn’t understand the negativity or such petty criticism. Yet the more the model was validated and praised as the next step in NLP, the model that would consume (“eat”) NLP, a brilliant analysis of self-reflexive consciousness, etc., the more some needed to pull it (and myself ) down.

So the principle is this:

“ The higher you stand, the higher you reach – the more people who will want to see you fall and will devote themselves to pulling you down. ”

They will do it by criticism, rejection, insult, mockery, misrepresentation, lies, betrayals, etc. Leaders in every age and every country have experienced this. It was this principle that sent Nelson Mandella to prison. And Martin Luther King. It was this principle that led to the crucifixion of Jesus.

Step up to do something important, something that contributes, something that makes the lives of others better – and there will be lots of things that will go wrong for you. You will be criticised unjustly, treated unfairly, gossiped about, your reputation will be questioned in the minds of many, and there may even be some betrayals of loyalty and friendship.

If you are standing out, leading a new way, pioneering new technology, following your passion – there will be people who will devote a vested-interest in your downfall! And they will actively seek to undermine your influence, question your reputation and call your integrity into question.

» One leader will have the personal details of something very personal, like her divorce and breakup, made person in an attempt to discredit her.
» One leader will have his integrity questioned with innuendoes about possible misbehaviors in finances so that a cloud of questions and doubt surrounds him when there’s no facts about any mishandling of funds.
» One leader will be criticised ruthlessly through the gossip grapevine and because she didn’t want to get involved in a needless self-defence, the gossip becomes the only information that anyone hears and so beliefs so that she loses her leadership.
» One passionate person with a heart for finding solutions is accused of plagiarism so that his contributions are called into question.

The Art of Coping Well when Things go Wrong

So, when things like these go wrong, when the person is only trying to do good, what do we do? What do you do? What actions can one take in order to cope effectively in that context?

1. Access your best states.
First of all, you will need to immediately access or re-access a tough and positive resilience so that you can remain true to your passions, visions, and integrity. Access a meta-state of that quality and make sure it is textured with sufficient resources so that you can stand your ground, remain open to your own fallibilities and continual growth, and not let a disappointing turn of events take all the spirit out of you.1

The things that go wrong will be testing your state and your strength of character. So let it. So identify and consciously work on getting into the right state. If you are not in it, protect yourself and your responses from being reactive by avoiding responding until you’re in the right state. Remember, the quality of your life is the quality of your states. So is the quality of your responses.

2. Texture your state.
This tough and positive resilience of this sort needs to have certain qualities and elements. For example, I would recommend that it, at least, have the following:

» The ego-strength to face reality for whatever it is without caving in.

» The miracle of acceptance to welcome reality in, witness in, and keep one’s wits for coping with it.

» A kind and big heart that can continue to see the positive in the face of negatives, a big-spirited heart (being magnanimous) that believes in people, even in those who are hurtful. They are more than their behaviour.

» A refusal to let events or the criticisms of others define oneself, but to let one’s visions and values define who one is and what one is about. “Others do not define me; that’s my unique privilege.”

» The ability to take any unpleasant experience and use it as a crucible for transformation and further development. “What tests me only makes me stronger.”

» The solution focus to keep coping until one finds out how to not only survive when things go wrong, but thrive and master it and then turn it into the foundation for another level of development.

So as you identify the qualities for your state, texture them into your state. This is the meta-stating process whereby you apply these states as the frames of the first state. These qualities will enable you to not be shocked and surprised, but to actually expect them. Even to look for them.

3. Access and develop your state management skills.
Access and develop your state management skills. What do we do when things go wrong? We take charge of our states and meta-states because these govern and control the very quality of our life. The worst thing is to loose your own cool and retaliate in like manner. That just pulls you down to their level.

4. Shift to a solution-focused orientation.
When you are managing your state well, then you can more easily look things square in the face with the eyes of solution – of solving problems. “This is just a problem to be solved; and that’s what I do.” That’s what the main character in A Beautiful Mind said at the critical turning point. “Schizophrenia is just a problem to be solved; and that’s what I do, solve problems. 3

5. Opt for a tough optimism.
If this is the heart of a resilient leader in the face of life when things go wrong, what resources, meta-states, inner frames of mind, etc. do you need in order to create that kind of tough and positive resilience? This isn’t just “positive thinking.” It isn’t smiling and pretending all is well. It is a realistic resilience that’s tough enough to face reality as it is and the hard times and maintain a proactive stance of following your passion.
6. Own your power of choice in responding.
No one has this fully installed. When things go wrong, we’re all tempted to take revenge, react in kind, fall apart, give up, and so on. That’s why you have to remind yourself and have your support people remind you to persist, to focus on what’s truly important, and to remember that you are always capable of choosing your attitude. It takes a certain degree of mindfulness and commitment, but you can do it. 4

7. Look for a way to capitalise on the wrong things.
Yes, that’s right. Martin Luther wrote his famous Birmingham Letter from prison. Nelson Mandela also used the wrong done to him to write letters and eventually the story in The Long Road to Freedom. On a much smaller level, I found that the criticism made people talk about the books and that whenever there was the unjust attacks (in my mind), book sales increased. Others develop great stories to tell about their journey!

None of us like it when things go wrong and especially when we are trying to do good, but it happens. And it will happen. So expect it, anticipate it, prepare for it, and transform it into something that you can use to do even more good. Leaders need this skill – this frame of mind.

So, have you chosen to build that kind of frame of mind as your inner game? All you have to do is to set that as your objective and then to get busy actualizing it into the very fabric of your mind.


1. For more about this kind of tough-minded resilience, see the chapters on Resilience in Dragon Slaying (2000) and Meta-States (2000).

2. “Meta-stating” refers to the process of applying one state to another to create a higher level state. In meta-stating we transcend our primary state and include it within a higher level perspective. Learn about this is Accessing Personal Genius Training.

3. For more about problem solving using NLP and Neuro-Semantics, see the Ultimate Self-Actualisation Workshop and Games Business Experts.

4. For more about building up a super-charged attitude, see the Neuro-Semantic pattern, Super-Charging your Attitude in Games Business Experts Play and in the Living Genius series.


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