Unleashing Your Inner Warrior: How To Overcome Life’s Setbacks

how to overcome setbacks

by Vincent Corvino

You haven’t lived until you’ve tasted the government cheese.  When I was a young Bronx kid, a huge block of officially-stamped American-style cheddar product would periodically and miraculously appear in the Corvino household.  Our eligibility to receive it meant we were poor.  I didn’t know that at the time.  I thought we got free food, because we were special.  Given the opportunity, I would have bragged about this privilege.

Now, that same block of cheese actually magnifies my life accomplishments.  I’m extra proud of what I’ve become, because of my humble beginnings.  You haven’t lived until you’ve mastered the power of perspective.  This mastery is especially important when we suffer setbacks.  When we view them as failures, we question our self-worth and true potential.  This breeds insecurity.  If you’re a man, insecurity is a scientifically-confirmed delusion.

There simply is no such thing as a naturally insecure male.  Nature hasn’t wired you to be that guy.  Recent DNA-related studies have revealed that men, natural hunters, are inclined to pursue far-off targets; a woman’s focus is more proximate.  Men enjoy the challenge of the chase.  Challenges involve risks, the possibility of failure, and the application of focused and meaningful aggression.

Insecurity prevents a man from seeking out and pursuing challenging goals.  He isn’t built to deflate when things temporarily don’t go his way.  Imagine precisely manufacturing a radio that suddenly starts making pancakes.  Ridiculous, right?

How does a warrior know he’s a warrior? He sees himself as a hunter and views his hit and miss experiences through a hunter’s lens.  He’s a master of perspective.   Back in high school, when the warrior asked that way-out-of-his-league girl to the prom, he was hunting, and he still patted his own back for trying after she said, “No.”

Later in life, when he participated in a group job interview, he was metaphorically competing for the kill, and he knew it.  The warrior derives pride and self-confidence from the hunt itself.  If he goes for a promotion and doesn’t get it, he applauds himself for having had the stones to take a shot.  So, how does` that guy become that guy?  He sees setbacks as complete defeats and not as occasions to improve his hunting game.

How many of us have been denied a career opportunity?  How many of us have been dumped by a significant other or wholeheartedly embarked on an entrepreneurial or personal venture that ultimately failed?  In life, do we rivet ourselves on what we have lost or what we have gained?  I’ve learned a lot of empowering information about myself from all four of these aforementioned scenarios.   This self-knowledge has improved my hunting game and helped me to succeed where I had previously “failed.”

Any guy who has been alive for even a little while has had all the ups and downs needed to build and unleash his inner warrior.  The writer, Flannery O’ Connor wrote, “Anyone who has lived through his childhood has enough material to last the rest of his life.”

In his dharma talk, “The Lover and The Warrior,” Zen Buddhist Roshi and former marine, Rich Hart, says that all sentient beings are warriors.  He instructs us to understand our true nature and to lose all embarrassment over being human.  He offers the koan, “How do you realize your true nature when looking at a butterfly?”  The answer?  You recognize that it is doing exactly what it is naturally inclined to do.  For our purposes, we might ask, “How to you realize your true nature when looking at a warrior?”  You understand that you can’t separate yourself from him, because you are him.

unleash your inner warriorHow do you unleash your inner warrior when life kicks sand in your face?

Take inventory:  Reflect on your past.  Locate all of the many times that you have ventured outside your comfort zone for a desired purpose.  Remember, these moments need not look like scenes from a gladiator movie.  You’ll probably be surprised at how many times you’ve metaphorically stepped into battle.  Win or lose, the guy who willingly walks into the ring is a winner in my book.

Wear the right glasses:  View your past battles through the correct lens.  Did you take a risk and “fail?”  What did you gain from this alleged failure?  How has this experience strengthened you?

Transfer your victories to new opportunities:  Now that you’ve itemized and correctly interpreted your fights and victories, think about the characteristics that they all share in common.  Did they all require you to overcome your fears?  Definitely.  Apply this ability to new pursuits.  Ask that woman for a date, before you become her platonic friend.  The only thing stopping you is fear.  If it hasn’t stopped you before, why should it stop you now?  If she rejects you, put on your good glasses and see that you have still won a battle with yourself and will carry the spoils — increased confidence — into the next conquest.

About the Author:

Vincent Corvino’s writing has appeared in several literary journals, amongst them The Quarterly, New Letters, The Crescent Review and The Blue Moon Review. He is currently the lead singer of the New York City hard rock band, Urbansnake.  He possesses an MA in Education from Columbia University and a Post-Graduate Certificate in School Leadership.  He has been an English teacher since 1996.