Italian footballers reacts at the end of the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification football against Sweden, on November 13, at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Italy failed to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1958 on Monday as they were held to a 0-0 draw in the second leg of their play-off at the San Siro by Sweden, who qualified with a 1-0 aggregate victory. AFP

If you are a football fan like me, the big news this week was that the Italian national side crashed out of qualification for the World Cup finals for the first time in 60 years.

Many Italians are very passionate about the Azzurri, the moniker by which the team go by. And, the most difficult thing for them now is to decide what to do between the 14th of June and the 15th of July next year, when the finals are staged in Russia.

The post mortem has begun earnestly.

Even in Kuala Lumpur, some 9700 kilometres from Rome, this is big news. My friend, and local football pundit, Keeshaanan Sundaresan lamented on his social media feed that the Italians didn't get knocked out for having a poor squad. They got knocked out because Gian Piero Ventura, their manager never knew his best system, and simply couldn't identify the best players at his disposal.

The Italian newspapers have been far less sanguine. “Italy, this is the apocalypse,” was the headline in the country’s leading sports paper, La Gazzetta dello Sport , and the other major sports daily, Corriere dello Sport, in its editorial claimed, “It is an intolerable football shame, an indelible stain.”

In pizzerias, and gelato stands around Italy, the recriminations will continue for months. I am also certain that in TV studios, and the sports sections of the media around the world, experts will dissect, cogitate, and analyse their failure in microscopic detail.

I leave the footballing faux-pas of the team for the football experts.

What fascinates me is how Italian football bounces back. I look forward to witnessing the rise of the four-time world champions from the ignominy of not qualifying.

I am also interested in sharing some ideas on what you need to do if you encounter setbacks like the Italian football team, at your workplace, or in your career.

You will meet disappointment, and obstacles at work. How do you bounce back from them?

The start-point for you is this; you must take any setback you experience, and learn to use it to advance yourself. Do not allow it to define you.

I have realised that setbacks are the norm in the path to any lasting success. The disappointments I have faced at work served as a catalyst for my personal growth.

Some obstacles are small and have minimal impact on your ability to continue. But, I also acknowledge that some will make you feel like the end of the world is nigh.

Here are a few things that I have done to help me conquer these disappointments.

You must have strong fundamentals. I am best suited to manage setbacks when my foundation is strong. It is a simple step to understand. Any structural engineer will tell you that ‘Strength of Materials’ is one of the first subjects they learn at college. In the mechanics of materials, the strength of a material is its ability to withstand an applied load without failure.

Your ability to rise from distress is predicated on your mental and physical strength. A keen sense of your strengths and weaknesses, coupled with a strong support network will help you.

The next thing I do is that I take ownership of my setbacks. My biggest failings were when I did not take responsibility for what I did.

I do get angry, and disappointed. I just do not wallow in self-pity.

Process your hurt, but be vigilant against playing the blame game. Remember not to act in haste. Work through your feelings by focusing on your role in the setback. This will teach how to avoid the same misstep in the future.

When I take this attitude to manage my disappointments, I find that my mind recalibrates. Setbacks and failure are frequently camouflaged opportunities.

There is no doubt you will feel the pain of the disappointment. The trick is to connect with the mind-set that the immediate dissatisfaction you feel will settle down, and if you do this properly, you will see openings for progress.

I also actively seek out people who will help me overcome my failure.

Be careful not to pick people who will fuel your anger, or just drive you deeper into self-doubt. Look for people who are solution oriented, and are skilled at empowering others.

Congregate with those who are honest, and insightful. I always look for people who have a “get-up and go” philosophy in life, in the moments of my despair.

And finally, learn, strategize, and execute a recovery plan.

I ask my executive leadership coaching clients to constantly do ‘action-research’; meaning to reflect on their actions, and to keep a tab on how they behave, and respond to situations.

This is a vital tool that will help you connect with what you are doing, and how you can improve your results. It will help create strategies to avoid, circumvent, or overcome similar setbacks in the future. This exercise will also energise you to take action.

Now, does anyone have the phone number of the Federcalcio, the Italian Football Federation?

Shankar R. Santhiram is a managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”

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