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How to Turn a Setback into a Comeback

Note: Today’s post is available for you to either watch as a vlog or read as a blog post below.


I remember a story recently, which has a relevant application to the season we’re in today. If you’ve followed professional boxing over the last century, you know the name, Jack Dempsey. Jack was the heavyweight champion of the world for seven years.

But do you know the name of the guy who beat him?

Probably not. He was a nobody by the name of Gene Tunney. Gene had set a goal as a young man that he wanted to be a professional boxer—until he faced a setback during his military service. Gene broke all of the fingers in both of his hands. His trainer and his doctor both told him he’d have to give up boxing. His brittle bones would not allow it.

Gene had a decision in front of him.

Interestingly, Tunney decided he would not give up his goal of being a boxer. In fact, he wanted to be the heavyweight champion of the world. He just changed his methods of preparation. Gene began to learn the art of self-defense, which allowed him to use a different part of his hand for his craft. He learned to run backward, knowing that facing Jack Dempsey he’d have to run backwards a few rounds. He completely changed the way he approached his goal.

And when Gene Tunney finally got his chance to take on Jack Dempsey, he whipped him. It shocked everyone. It so humiliated Jack Dempsey, that Dempsey challenged Tunney to a rematch. Tunney beat him a second time. He was no fluke.

Now here’s the truth I want you to catch.

Fistic experts, who understand boxing, tell us something intriguing. They estimate there is no way that Gene Tunney could have beaten Jack Dempsey for the heavyweight crown had he NOT broken all the fingers in both of his hands. No one at the time could go head to head and toe to toe with Dempsey and survive. It was the very setback (even tragedy) Tunney faced that launched him toward his goal.

His setback actually enabled him to come back better.

What We Learn from Gene Tunney

Gene practiced three responses, which empowered him to go further than he expected when he faced a setback, which he leveraged to propel him toward his original goal:

1. Continue

First, he decided to not give up on his original goal. He continued pushing forward.

2. Adapt

Second, he adapted how he chased his goal. He kept his mission but changed his methods.

3. Reverse

Third, he took the very problem that could’ve shut him down and used it to send him on.

I’m not sure how your different, adverse circumstance may have felt like a setback. But what if you took the very item you saw as a disadvantage and reversed it, making it an advantage? What if this time out during the coronavirus could be leveraged to move you further faster?

3 Comments

  1. […] post How to Turn a Setback into a Comeback appeared first on Growing […]

  2. […] post How to Turn a Setback into a Comeback appeared first on Growing […]

  3. Jason on May 14, 2020 at 4:15 pm

    This is a fantastic post, Tim! Using it with my students this week!

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How to Turn a Setback into a Comeback