Setback or Setup Part 1

 In Article, Personal Growth

“Setback” … or Setup?

“Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.”
– Michael Jordan

Setback or setup part 1, written by Paul M Neuberger, your event speaker.
The greatest basketball player of all time – Michael Jordan – was cut from his high school team.

The early slight fueled his legendary competitive fire. The rest is history.


Um … not really. This oft-recited tale (even by Jordan) is a myth. At the least, it embellishes what really happened.

Jordan wasn’t cut. He was demoted (sort of).

In his sophomore year at Laney High School in Wilmington, N.C., The Greatest Ever wound up on the junior varsity team. Another sophomore – a close friend of Jordan’s who happened to be nine inches taller – made the varsity squad. Jordan supposedly went home and cried after the rosters were revealed.

Needless to say, this setback worked out OK. Maybe even better. Jordan excelled on the JV team, polishing his skills, and went on to untold heights of success (starting with his championship-winning shot as a college freshman).

Believe it or not, you and Michael Jordan might share a similar experience (or two). Yes, I really said that.

Ever apply for a job promotion that seemed perfect … and missed out? You were crushed. It was THE next step on your career ladder! What now?

Maybe you took a while to recover. You pondered. Realizations settled in. The position’s title and money would have been great … but it wasn’t really what you wanted to do. Would you have been happy? How long before this superseded the perceived benefits?

Or, you realize you didn’t really make a strong case as the right person for the role. Where could you improve? How should you be better prepared next time?

The setback really wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was setting you up for something better.

These scenarios extend into our personal lives. Maybe there was someone you really, really wanted to date. Except, they never looked your way. Or, you asked them out, and heard “no” in response.

You were so bummed. This person you pined for was out of reach. What a setback.

Your heart ached … until you unexpectedly met someone who turned out to be your ideal match. You’re so happy with them. Life is bountiful. How did things turn out so well?

Looking back, you realize something: If you’d gone out with the initial object of your desires, you likely never would have met Mr./Ms. Right. You shudder at the thought. The initial setback – which was so hard at the time – was setting you up for something far better.

Life often works this way. Like most others, I’ve had career hiccups. Things shook out, though, to the point where I’m able to help others as an inspirational speaker.

Setbacks, while sometimes traumatic, can set us up for something bigger, or greater, or happier. We understand this, though, only through the prism of time.

How are we to know better times lie ahead? How can we stay positive after being (figuratively) kicked in the teeth? I’ll explore this quandary in my next post. I might even adapt it to a presentation for my work as a keynote speaker.

Remember, Michael Jordan admitted to missing more than 9,000 shots in his career. If you’ve had a setback recently, take heart – chances are something better lies ahead. Your next shot just might be a game-winner.

(Paul M. Neuberger is President of The Starr Group, Founder/CEO of The Cold Call Coach, and a globe-trotting inspirational keynote speaker. Don’t miss his upcoming three-part webinar series, Paul’s Emergency Sales Kit, filled with timely instruction and advice for salespeople during a challenging period. Or, for an even deeper dive into sales mastery, try Cold Call University. Contact Paul at 414-313-8338 or via e-mail at or

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