Dealing with Discouragement

Dealing with Discouragement


Leadership Series by Dean Eleanor Green

“Develop success from Failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”

– Dale Carnegie

I had just unloaded my horse, Cable Bar Adams, at his new temporary home in Gainesville, Florida and had headed back to Broward Hall, my temporary dormitory home on the University of Florida campus. I was a preveterinary student full of pride to be a “Gator” and loaded with enthusiasm to start my journey to become an equine veterinarian. On my first day in Animal Science 101, the professor asked how many preveterinary students were in class. The hands of animated students shot up, to which he responded glumly that most of us would not get in. As coach of the Livestock Judging Team, he then encouraged animal science students to sign up for the team – except women! Did he really say that? He openly discouraged women from signing up.  With naïve optimism, my classmate, Lyn Quarrier, and I decided to sign up anyway.

How did this turn out and why? Lyn and I both were allowed to try out for the team. We both made the cut to join the team. We were completely unfazed by any thoughts that women should not be included. We worked hard, performed well, and contributed to team success. We generated fun and escapades punctuated by a serious intent to excel. We modeled dedication to achieving excellence. The next year, that previously reluctant coach asked me to be his assistant coach for the new team. Success! Lyn and I had opened the door for the many women who followed. And others noticed. Recently my husband, Dr. Jim Heird, told me that when he was on the University of Tennessee Livestock Judging Team, people were sharing stories about those two women on the Florida team.

Every person experiences discouragement along their entire leadership path.  What leadership lessons can I tease out to share from this experience?

  1. “First seek to understand and then be understood.”  It was important to appreciate that the coach had nothing against women, he just did not understand how women could be incorporated into his longstanding, traditional model. We saw it as our responsibility to show him.
  2. Frame the situation logically, consider the motivations of others, and take responsibility for your actions.
  3. When one is given the opportunity to shape views, seize it!  And do so with emotional intelligence. Self-aware leaders are able to assess situations with balanced consideration for themselves and others and conceive win-win solutions.
  4. Take time before responding. It is easy to become hyper-reactive in discouraging situations.
  5. Help people understand and don’t punish them for not comprehending at first, especially through irretrievable words or irreparable actions. I often found it helpful to write down my best, most logical response to ensure I remained calm without allowing myself to become overly emotional as I charted my course.
  6. Do not allow yourself to become bitter; rather, redirect any resentfulness or hurt to positive action.
  7. Don’t let anything or anyone turn you into something you don’t want to be. Remain true to yourself. Reflect on what is motivating you and take inventory of yourself. Resetting your sights will energize and remotivate you.
  8. Most importantly, do not quit! You can thoughtfully continue your progress even if there are unavoidable barriers or detours along the way.

The beginning reference to Cable Bar Adams was highly intentional. Find an outlet to sustain wellness. My horses recharge my battery and give me peace. It is hard to think about discouragement on the back of a horse. When I step out of the saddle, my mind is right to tackle the world.

In the end, this is your life. These are your goals. Enjoy every step, even the ones that provide “life lessons.”


Eleanor Green

Dr. Eleanor Green is the Founding Dean of Lyon College of Veterinary Medicine. She is a Diplomate of ACVIM and ABVP. She received a BS in Animal Science from the University of Florida and a DVM from Auburn University.

She established a veterinary practice in Mississippi as partner/owner. She became a founding faculty member of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University. Her academic appointments have included: equine faculty member at University of Missouri; head of Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and director of large animal hospital at the University of Tennessee; chair of Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and Chief of Staff of large animal hospital at the University of Florida. She served as president of three national organizations: American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, American Association of Veterinary Clinicians.

Her awards include: 2004 Award of Distinction from UF College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 2011 Wilford S. Bailey Distinguished Alumni Award from Auburn, 2012 Women ‘s Progress Award for Administration and 2015 Distinguished Achievement Award for Administration at Texas A&M, and induction into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 2013.

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