Bounce Back Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Bounce Back is a book by Susan Kahn, a business coach who will teach you the psychology of resilience from the perspectives of Greek philosophy, Sigmund Freud, and modern neuroscience, so you can recover quickly from professional blunders of all kinds by changing your thinking.

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Bounce Back Summary

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All of us will go through tough times in life. The difference between regular people and resilient people is that they don’t let adversity define them. Resilience is all about being flexible and adaptable and handling demanding situations without getting bent out of shape. 

If you’re ready to develop this awesome skill in your career, Bounce Back: How to Fail Fast and be Resilient at Work by Susan Kahn is the perfect book for you. Using her extensive experience as a business psychologist, Kahn will not just teach you how to survive the curveballs life throws your way but how to flourish in whatever you do. 

These are just 3 of the many lessons in this book that have helped me learn resilience:

  1. If you want to be successful, the key is accepting that failure is inevitable. 
  2. You can use fail-fast systems to make failing easier. 
  3. Having a sense of purpose makes us resilient even when things get hard. 

Ready to become resilient? Let’s jump right in!

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Lesson 1: We need to accept that we’re going to fail if we want to be successful at anything in life.

In ancient Greece, merchants who owned failed businesses had to sit in the marketplace with a basket over their heads while others ridiculed them for their failures. Pretty harsh, right? Modern society isn’t so bad, but our fear of failure lives on.

Failure doesn’t mean you are less smart or able. Even accomplished people or institutions fail. The key is learning from it.

Just think about one of the most successful basketball players in history—- Michael Jordan. He wasn’t any stranger to failure. In fact, he missed over 9,000 shots in his career, and 26 of those were even potential game-winners. But as he famously said, “That is why I succeed.” 

Need more convincing? JK Rowling, one of the world’s most famous children’s authors who penned the Harry Potter series, experienced her fair share of failure. Her books were rejected by dozens of publishing houses before they became a global sensation. 

And of course, Thomas Edison, inventor of the lightbulb, thought of each failure as a step in the right direction. With all of his failed attempts, he said he found 10,000 ways the light bulb wouldn’t work. 

Obviously, failure is important to success, but not everyone is going to be accepting of it. Stakeholders such as clients or bosses will often be upset about it. That’s why it’s vital to have a system that allows risk-taking and failures, but helps you maintain these relations. This is what the author calls “fail fast.”

Lesson 2: Use “fail fast” to help people make the most of failure.

The idea of a fail-fast originates from systems design. It is a technology that promptly reports problems that could likely result in serious issues down the line. When it reports a problem, operations are paused so the flaw can be fixed. You can do something similar in day-to-day work. 

The only guaranteed way to avoid failure in life is by never trying anything new. But this will never help you grow or achieve great things. We only really thrive when we’re excited and challenged in our work. When we’re caught in the same old routine, we stop producing our best work. 

So many of us get caught in the trap of familiarity. Why? Because once we get really good at something, we start to become risk-averse. It feels good to be an expert at something and we don’t want to leave the comfort zone we worked hard to create. Embracing something new and challenging means we aren’t an expert and we’re likely to face failure. 

This is where failing fast comes in handy. As we know, failure helps us learn like nothing else can. So if an organization wants to thrive in today’s world, they can’t just tolerate failure, they have to embrace it. This means leaders need to actively encourage experimentation and make sure there are moderate challenges. 

Challenges will help people come up with creative solutions but also keep the stakes relatively low when they do fail. And when they do, they have the opportunity to learn about what works and what doesn’t.

Lesson 3: Purpose enables you to bounce back even when things get rough.

When we know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, we’re a lot more likely to be resilient. It’s the “why” that gets someone through grueling training for a marathon. Having a sense that what we’re doing means something helps us persevere. 

Take a minute to think about it— are you emotionally invested in what you do? If you are, it’s likely that you go the extra mile because you will not only have more professional success but you also will feel more fulfilled. 

So if you want to be more resilient in what you do, you need to find what matters to you. This means committing to having a working life that gives you purpose, which can be hard and scary. People might not understand why you want to do what you want to do, but it will be worth it. After all, we only have one life. Why not do what you care about? 

The Japanese have a word for a sense of purpose that makes you want to get out of bed each morning: ikigai. It means “a reason for being.” An ikigai is something you do because it matters, not just because it makes you money. To find yours, ask yourself four important things: 

  1. What do you love doing? 
  2. What are you good at? 
  3. What does the world need?
  4. What can you be paid for it? 

Your purpose, or you ikigai, should be where all of these overlap. Finding this will not only give you a more fulfilled professional life but also will help you be much more likely to bounce back when things get rough.

Bounce Back Review

I thought Bounce Back was helpful for developing strategies for becoming more resilient in the workplace. A lot of the advice was stuff you have probably heard in other self-help books, but this book condensed it nicely and was easy to understand. My only regret about it was that I didn’t have time to share more lessons!

Who would I recommend the Bounce Back summary to?

The 32-year-old dad who’s just lost his job and feels discouraged, the 57-year-old executive that’s failed a lot recently and wonders if she can still make it, and anyone wanting to develop their resilience muscle.

Last Updated on May 25, 2023

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.