Why setbacks can turn you into a high achiever
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, the saying goes. While it may sound like a cliché, multiple studies over the past century have shown that setbacks and failures are associated with better life and career trajectory.
UK Sport made some interesting discoveries after interviewing 85 elite athletes and coaches. Most athletes were found to suffer losses in the early years of their career, but for those who went on to win Olympic medals, the setbacks had a motivating effect. On the other hand, the early defeats were more discouraging for less prominent athletes.
The same phenomenon could be observed in other fields. Early-career obstacles were also found to be beneficial for scientists. Nine out of ten budding scientists whose grant proposals fell just below the funding threshold went on to publish more high-impact papers over the following ten years.
Children who experienced loss of parental figures or other trauma have also been associated with more high-profile success in the future. A 2016 study found that out of a random sample of 573 important figures who gained more than one column in encyclopaedias, nearly half had a parent die before they turned 20.