How do you come back from devastating failure? – BBC News

Olympian Lutalo Muhammad was seconds away from winning a taekwondo gold medal at the Rio Olympics when his dreams were shattered. The Victoria Derbyshire programme followed him as he met others who have overcome personal setbacks.

“I’m sorry, I don’t want to cry on TV, but I’m so distraught.”

These are not the words usually associated with somebody who has won a medal at the Olympic Games.

But for Lutalo Muhammad, the Rio 2016 Olympics were about one thing: a gold medal. Anything less was a failure.

Shortly before breaking down on television, with moments remaining of his gold medal taekwondo final, Lutalo was about to fulfil his lifelong dream.

He was leading 6-4 as the clock counted down. But his opponent hit him with a reverse turning kick with the last kick of the final. He lost, and his dream had slipped through his fingers.

“The initial period was horrible,” he says now, six months on from winning the silver medal.

Image caption Lutalo broke into tears after the loss

“I lost at the Olympics in the last second. And one of the hardest things to deal with was that the entire world was watching.

“My lowest point was captured on camera for everybody to see. That was a very difficult thing for me to deal with.”

As part of his attempt to come to terms with Olympic disappointment, Lutalo has met other people who have overcome adversity.

Paloma Thompson has two healthy, happy boys. Wynter is four and Bodhi is two.

Wynter was born three months premature and has some learning difficulties – something for which Paloma blamed herself.

Image caption Paloma says she did not feel worthy of being Wynter’s mother

“I felt like a failure, because when you’re pregnant the one job you are meant to do is keep your child safe – protect them for the full nine months,” she tells Lutalo.

“I just felt like my body let him down, and now he’s had to start life in a really difficult place.”

Paloma says she believed she was not “worthy of being his mum” for the first year of Wynter’s life.

Eventually, she was diagnosed with a form of post-natal depression and has since been seeing a therapist. She also joined a group for other mothers with similar feelings.

Image caption Paloma now has a “wonderful” relationship with both her children

Now, she says, she has an “absolutely wonderful” relationship with her children.

Overcoming adversity is all about “looking for the positives”, she tells Lutalo. “Try not to dwell on what happened, but make the most of now.”

‘You have to move on’

One man who has looked past previous setbacks to achieve great success is Lord Sugar.

As the star of BBC One’s The Apprentice, he is one of the best known businessmen in the country, but his rise to the top was not without difficulties.

Ventures into the gaming market in the 1990s with the Amstrad GX4000 and the pen computing market with the PenPad were both commercial flops.

Lord Sugar is characteristically blunt in response: “I had a failure and people talked about my failure, and you have to move on.

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Media captionLord Sugar on how to bounce back from failure.

“We dropped from the darlings of the computer industry down to virtually zero and that was a very, very tough time,” he says.

“We went from making profits of 160m a year to losses of 70m, and big bank debts.”

So how do you overcome public failure, Lutalo asks him.

“You can’t deal with it by arguing against it or making excuses,” Lord Sugar says.

“You have to move on until you get your next product in the marketplace, like our satellite dishes which we made for Sky television, and then suddenly everything else was forgotten.”

‘I’d let my family down’

For others, financial difficulties can pervade family life.

Naomi Gilmore ran a garden furniture company worth almost 1m, until things started suddenly to go wrong.

“I think my lowest point came about six months after my highest point,” she tells Lutalo.

“I had turned over nearly 1m in business. I really thought like I’d made it. I had a team of staff.”

But after a summer of bad weather affected sales of her outdoor furniture, her suppliers chose to sell to bigger retailers instead, which forced her to put her business into administration.

Image caption Naomi lost everything in a period of six months

Within six months, bailiffs were knocking at Naomi’s door, threatening to take her car away.

“I sat on the kitchen floor and I just felt like my soul had been ripped out. I just felt like a huge failure.

“I felt like I’d let my family down. I didn’t even know how I was going to keep a roof over their heads or feed them.

“I just wanted to hide away and pretend it wasn’t all happening.”

Naomi struggled to find work, and eventually chose to try business once more – writing down on a piece of paper what she was good at, and starting up an online marketing company as a result.

She feels her past experiences have taught her to keep a better overview of her current company.

“Now I feel like a success, and I feel I’ve used that past feeling of failure very much to my advantage.”

Lutalo will be hoping, in much the same way, that when it comes to Tokyo 2020 he too can learn from the anguish of Rio to finally put that gold medal around his neck.

Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.

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