How to deal with setbacks

After a week of absence, I returned high motivated to my desktop. I wanted to build a clickable prototype with the ability to test it on users. Why? Because it is told so in the Design Sprint method: „Build the prototype within 7 hours.“ And I wanted to see our baby going somehow live, whether all the features and patterns were running as imagined in our concept.

The first user flow–roughly drawn in the hackathon; the in detail storyboarded user flow on mobile devices; and the wireframes created in Figma ready to become interactive

It was a frustrating experience for me. The first day I was tackling between defining the steps of the user flow and wireframing the applications. Not very effective! The second day I started once again, now wireframing the mobile app experience. Just to recognize that our imagined solution wasn’t innovative at all! The user flow and the design patterns were the same as in other online courses we are used to taking part in. The approach of the clickable prototype became in this moment worthless for me. Where was the error? What could we learn? I asked our community. (To be continued)

Findings and thoughts pushing emotions

Lessons learned

  • Don’t be your drill instructor. Be generous with yourself. When you focus only on outcomes you measure with skilled professionals. But they have their learning path behind them.
  • The mindset suggested by John Stepper, the inventor of Working Out Loud, is helpful here. He says, „Expect setbacks“. And reframe them as an opportunity to learn. See every step you do as an experiment.
  • Find the right moment to quit. This is a difficult question for me. Am I already wasting resources or should I stick to my goal and go ahead? You can free yourself of this thought trap by reframing–as shown in the previous point: With each step, you do you can just win new findings. It’s like hiking: You see a new horizon after trespassing the path.
  • Seek feedback from outside. I believe this may be the most helpful. It makes things much easier. 😉


Find out more about dealing with setbacks and changing your habits in the 8th week of the WOL circle. Or in chapter 13 of John Stepper’s book. Here is additional content on the topic provided by the author.

Here is a video by Ira Glass that gives you some consolation. It’s about this gap between the claim and the result you witness as a beginner. The credit goes again to John Stepper in his weekly Guide.