Blog | Personal Finance

Overcoming Disappointment with Emotional Intelligence

Most people focus on book smarts, but the most successful people have street smarts... and here's why.

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Most people focus on book smarts, but the most successful people face and learn from disappointment

When I left the Marine Corps, rich dad recommended that I get a job that would teach me how to sell. I was very shy, and learning to sell was pretty much the last thing I wanted—but it was the one thing I needed.

For two years, I was the worst salesman on our team. I often blamed other factors for my inability to sell—the economy, the product, even my customers. My rich dad wouldn’t hear it. He, like always, got to the heart of the matter. “When people are lame,” he said, “they love to blame.”

Rich dad was trying to teach me that the emotional pain from disappointment is so strong that a person often pushes the pain onto someone else through blame. In order to learn to sell, I had to face the pain of disappointment. In the process, I learned how to turn disappointment into an asset rather than a liability.

Street smarts and emotional intelligence

One of the reasons someone with street smarts can become successful despite not having high book smarts is because they have high emotional intelligence, which in life is much more important than educational intelligence.

As Rich Dad Advisor, Lisa Lannon wrote: “Education doesn’t teach you how to take risks and how to take a chance on life. It does not prepare you how to take financial risks, or how to achieve financial freedom. And let me tell you, financial freedom will only come when you finally accept that mistakes are learning curves and that risk can be managed.”

In the same way, the most successful people when it comes to money have high emotional intelligence, even if they don’t have high educational intelligence. They have strong street smarts even if they don’t have good book smarts. In short, they are able to overcome fear with their emotional intelligence in order to take the necessary risks needed to increase their financial intelligence and become rich.

How being emotionally intelligent will prevent disappointment from holding you back

Whenever I meet people who are afraid to try something new, in most cases the reason is because they are afraid of disappointment. They are afraid they might make a mistake or be rejected.

But the reality is that if you want to be successful in life, not just get by, you need to be able to try new things. And if you do that, be prepared to be disappointed.

In some cases, society has perpetuated the idea that in order to be successful in life, you have to rely solely on your book smarts - even if that means abandoning the street smarts (or, in this case, emotional intelligence). But I want to note that all of the most successful people I know in life have high street smarts either alongside or despite their book smarts.

This is why many successful people dropped out of college but still did well in life, such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs. It is also why many people with degrees from prestigious universities can be stuck in middle management, dead-end jobs. And, rather than allowing disappointment to hold them back, they continue learning, and use their disappointments as a foundation to build on.

Disappointment is part of success

But just as inside every problem lies an opportunity, inside every disappointment lies a priceless gem of wisdom. The key is knowing how to deal with, and learn from, disappointment, in a way that utilizes your emotional intelligence.

Rich dad helped me learn how to deal with deep emotional disappointments. He said, “The reason there are few self-made successful people is because few people can tolerate disappointment. Instead of learning to face it, they spend their lives avoiding it.”

Rich dad believed that disappointment is an important part of learning, by extension, success. Just as we learn from our mistakes, we gain character from our disappointments, and continuously enhance our emotional intelligence. The following are some words of advice he gave me about disappointment.

Expect Disappointment

“Only fools expect everything to go their way,” said rich dad. “Expecting to be disappointed does not mean being passive or a defeated loser. It is a way of mentally and emotionally preparing yourself to be ready for surprises that you may not want. This allows you to be calm and dignified when things don’t go your way, which in turn allows you to think better.”

Success takes time, and along the way there is much disappointment. You have to be ready and willing to keep pushing and learning.

Have a mentor standing by

When things go wrong, who do you have to call? Just like we have emergency numbers for fire and police, we need someone we can call when we have financial emergencies.

Often before I go into a deal or venture, I call one of my mentors and ask their advice. This allows me to learn from others’ disappointments and apply their lessons to my situation.

Be kind to yourself

One of the most painful aspects about making mistakes or failing at something is not what other people say about us, but how hard we are on ourselves. Most people make a mistake and beat themselves up more than anyone else would.

I have found that people who are hard on themselves mentally and emotionally are often too cautious when it comes to taking risks, adopting new ideas, or attempting something new. It’s hard to learn anything new if you punish yourself all the time. So be kind to yourself.

Tell the truth

One of the worst punishments I ever received as a child was when I accidentally broke my sister’s front tooth. She ran home to tell my dad, and I ran and hid.

After my father found me, he was very angry. “The reason I’m punishing you isn’t because you broke your sister’s tooth,” he said. “I’m punishing you because you ran away.”

Financially, there are many times I could have run from my mistakes, but running away is taking the easy way out. We all make mistakes and face disappointments. The difference lies in how we process and overcome them. This starts with facing the consequences of our actions and telling the truth about why we failed. Only then can we grow and learn.

The need to overcome fear to succeed

Being human means having emotions. We all feel fear, sadness, anger, love, hate, disappointment, joy, and more. What makes us each unique is how we respond to those emotions.

When it comes to risking money, we all experience fear, even the most successful of us. The difference is how each of us handles that fear. For many people, that emotion of fear generates the thought: "Play it safe. Don't take risks." Who wants to recover from a disappointment involving money? For others the fear of losing money makes them think: "Play it smart. Learn to manage risk."

Same emotions, different thoughts: different being—different doing—different having.

Simply put, those who are rich are more mature when it comes to overcoming their fear, and how they approach disappointment. They are not reckless in doing so, but rather they put their emotional intelligence to work to see more clearly the path forward even in the face of fear and doubt.

If you want to be rich, you also need to learn how to grow your emotional intelligence to overcome fear, and disappointments.

In order to do this, it’s important to recognize patterns that hold you back, and take action to overcome those patterns. When we are faced with fear of risk, we must be able to rationally recognize that fear before it becomes too strong to overcome. This requires self-knowledge that is the result of constant self-assessment.

Upon any disappointments, if you can keep your emotions in check and go for what you know to be logical, you have a good chance of finding a method to being successful. It's a process of knowing which of your thoughts are emotion-based and which are logic-based. The most important conversation is always the one you have with yourself.

Emotional intelligence leads to financial intelligence

When reading Daniel Goleman’s book, “Emotional Intelligence,” I came to realize that financial IQ is 90% emotional and 10% technical information about finance and money. However, when it comes to money, upon disappointments, we know what we should do… but instead, we do what we feel like doing; this can totally interfere with the gem that lies within each disappointment and diminish its value greatly.

Kim and I experienced this early in our marriage when I was over a million dollars in debt and we wanted to grow our business. We were practicing our pay yourself first philosophy, even when we didn’t have the money to pay our bills. Our bookkeeper, Betty, was adamant we pay our creditors first, but we instead used our emotional intelligence to find ways to both pay ourselves first and to pay our creditors…even if it came with the disappointment of a late payment.

It would have been easy to give into our fear of disappointment, and not pay ourselves first. But if we did that, I can guarantee we would not be where we are today. Most likely we would have given up on our dreams and settled for something much less.

Emotional intelligence is the key to success

In my opinion, the greatest cause of financial struggle is the fear of disappointment. It could be the disappointment of being wrong, the disappointment of losing money; but nevertheless, it's this very fear that causes people to often operate too safely. If fear keeps you back from pursuing your dreams, I recommend you also read “Emotional Intelligence” by Goleman.

In his book, he explains the age-old puzzle of why people who do well in school do not always do well in the real world.

Goleman's answer is that your emotional IQ is more powerful than your academic IQ. That is why people who take risks, make mistakes, and recover often do better than people who learned not to make mistakes and are afraid to face disappointments.

Too many people leave school with good academic marks but no marks earned by taking a chance. They are not emotionally prepared to take risks, especially financial ones. Financial freedom comes when you finally feel free to make mistakes and manage risk.

A coach can help you grow your emotional intelligence to overcome fear and disappointments

When dealing with your emotions, it's always helpful to have someone to talk to that can give you objective advice—especially when it's advice you may not want to hear. When Kim and I were going through hard times, she was always there for me, to remind me of what we were working for. Her guidance kept me going, and I did the same for her. And we both had other coaches in our lives as well, who were committed to our success.

If you're ready to make the next step in your financial journey, you may want to consider a coach. We joined forces with Professional Education Institute to help you develop your own personal plan of success, and they keep you on track—even when you don't feel like it. If you feel our program is not for you, that’s fine; I still highly encourage you to find a coach. You’ll be better because of it.

Original publish date: November 19, 2013

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