What to do when things go wrong — 42courses.com

6 min readJan 28, 2021

As good as it sounds, it wouldn’t be real life if everything went your way all of the time.

That’s why it’s good to know what to do when things eventually do go wrong.

Sure, it’s easy to stick your head in the sand and hope the problem goes away, but it rarely does. As the author, Luca DellAnna wisely states, “Problems grow to the size needed for you to acknowledge them.”

Following the advice below can help you to address the issue before it grows too large to handle.

1. Accept what has happened

Acceptance of what has happened is the first step in overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.

— William James

The documentary Any One of Us tells the story of the talented BMX rider Paul Basagoita.

In 2015, the Red Bull-sponsored athlete entered the Red Bull Rampage event near Zion National Park in Virgin, Utah.

This freeride competition is not for the faint-hearted and involves riders negotiating themselves down an extremely steep and rocky canyon.

Basagoita had previously attended the competition but had never finished first.

That year he was at the top of his game; little did he know it was to be his last.

Thirty seconds into the descent, his foot caught a rock, and he was catapulted off his bike onto the ledge below.

He landed with a crack and complained of being unable to feel his legs. Paul had damaged the T12 vertebrae in his spine and was paralysed.

The rest of the documentary charts Paul’s agonising recovery journey aided by his girlfriend Nichole’s unwavering support.

The toll is not just physical but emotional too, and one of the toughest challenges the 28-year-old had to face was coming to terms with the gravity of the situation.

As a professional sportsman, the prospect of never fully recovering the use of his legs seemed like a fate worse than death. The depth of his frustration comes through clearly on-screen.

And yet, slowly, Paul begins to realise that he’s wasting precious energy by remaining angry at the situation and he starts to accept the hand that fate has dealt him.

His story is a powerful example of how acceptance is the first step in overcoming any misfortune.

2. Make a plan and execute it

The most important part of every plan is planning on your plan not going according to plan.

— Morgan Housel

Once you’ve accepted the situation, the next stage in your recovery is taking back control.

This helps to rid you of a victim mindset and any feelings of helplessness.

So how do you take back control?

By drawing up a plan and then putting it into action.

Your plan should outline the steps you need to take to get yourself back on track. By breaking the task down into manageable stages, it will help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed.

Once you have completed your plan, it’s time to start executing it.

Be aware that you may need to adjust things as you go, but it’s far better than the unhelpful alternative of ignoring the problem or masking it with harmful coping mechanisms.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Ask for help not because you’re weak, but because you want to remain strong.

— Les Brown

When the going gets tough, you have two options: either give up or ask for help.

Too often, we let pride get in the way of the latter.

This is because our ego is telling us that we should cope with the problem alone.

In reality, we all need help at some point in life.

And the funny thing is that people enjoy assisting those in need; numerous studies have shown people are happier when helping others.

This is because we are hardwired as a species to cooperate with others and to extend them a helping hand when they need it.

Given your problem’s nature, think about who you know who might be able to help.

It’s time to put pride to the side and ask them for assistance.

4. Ensure you learn something from the experience

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced.

— John Keats

Any adversity that you don’t reflect upon is a missed learning opportunity.

Taking the time to contemplate on what you have gained from experience will help you avoid making a similar mistake in the future and give you the confidence that comes with gaining knowledge.

When you review your situation, it helps to run through the following questions as prompts:

  • What did I learn from this experience?
  • What do I wish I had done differently?
  • How might I use these lessons in the future?

Learning from others’ experiences is useful too, and that’s why reading the biographies of interesting people can be so valuable.

5. Challenge Yourself To Think Flexibly

Blessed are the flexible for they will not allow themselves to become bent out of shape!

— Robert Ludlum

The seventh crewed mission to the moon was an eventful one.

NASA’s Apollo 13 programme began ordinarily, and everything seemed to be on track for the third planned lunar landing.

However, the lives of the three astronauts aboard were about to be turned upside down.

En route to the moon, an oxygen tank exploded and with it the system designed to provide clean, breathable air to their living quarters.

The disastrous consequences of this accident led to the crew commander uttering the immortal line “Houston, we have a problem”.

On the ground, the mission leader kept his head and instructed the engineers to work on possible solutions.

Given the crew could only work with the components onboard the craft, the engineers had to think flexibly how existing parts could be repurposed.

Eventually, they found a workaround and the crew’s lives were saved.

It’s a great example of the importance of not giving up at the first hurdle and challenging yourself to think beyond the obvious solutions.

The following questions can help:

  • What’s another way I could view my situation?
  • What advice would I give to a friend in this predicament?
  • What are the different options I can think of to address the problem?

6. Don’t Try And Bounce Back Too Quickly

It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop.

— Confucius

On the second lap of the 1976 Nurburgring Grand Prix, the Austrian Formula One driver Nicki Lauda lost control of his Ferrari.

The speeding car spun across the track, crashed into the barrier and burst into flames.

Tragically, Lauda was trapped in his car for nearly a minute before another driver could free him from the burning wreckage.

When he arrived at the hospital, the staff thought he wouldn’t survive his injuries.

Fortunately, they were proved wrong.

Just six weeks later, and despite advice from his doctors that his wounds needed longer to heal, Lauda got back into a racing car.

During his time in the hospital, the World Championship had continued and, as a consequence, the battle with his main rival, the British driver James Hunt, went down to the wire.

The final and deciding race of the season took place in Japan not far from the iconic Mt. Fuji.

That day, it rained hard, and the conditions were treacherous.

Despite being in contention for the win and the World Championship, Lauda retired his Ferrari on lap two believing it was too dangerous to continue.

His rival Hunt drove on and ended up clinching the World Championship by just half a point.

Lauda’s bravery is a cautionary reminder that after experiencing a traumatic or challenging life event, your mind and body will naturally be exhausted.

Even if you are enthusiastic to get back to ‘normal’, make sure you allow for a period of adjustment and recovery — think of it as a marathon rather than a sprint.

Originally published at https://blog.42courses.com on January 28, 2021.




Learn about life the universe and everything from a bunch of people at a fun edtech company. www.42courses.com