So, here’s a question: When faced with failure – like personal or career setbacks – why are some people able to learn from it, while others are not?

Maybe it was disappointment from being passed over for promotion, not winning that award, or missing out on recognition. Why do some people learn from setbacks and actually use them as launching points, while others resort to blaming, or other “political” behavior that is unhealthy, and in some cases, doused in self-pity?

It’s a loaded question, right?

But really, the topic of how we cope when things don’t go our way is a real and important question for us all. It’s something I call self-leadership, or our individual ability to be self-aware, self-manage and self-lead – away from personal and business failures and toward personal and business success.

I’m still a work-in-progress. And working on self-leadership is the key.

My former boss and then-American Family Insurance CEO Dave Anderson caught me in one of these moments. Something hadn’t gone my way. I wasn’t happy about it and felt that a colleague had let me down. Although I didn’t realize it, I was blaming someone else for not getting something done.

Dave’s simple response to me was: “Jack, you’re too good for that. You really are. Own up to this yourself. Deal with it. Move forward.”

Kind of like the time I fibbed to my parents, who caught me red-handed saying something untrue. Or like the time, when my wife was a little girl, someone called her two-faced. She didn’t like that comment, so she decided to change – immediately. We all have the ability to change our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors in an instant.

I didn’t like how lying to my folks felt, so I decided then and there to never do it again. And to my boss … yeah, Dave, you were right. I started thinking less about blaming and more about personal accountability and how I could be an instrument for positive change. I’m far from perfect, but this concept of self-leadership is one I work on daily, at work and at home.

People who are self-aware of their strengths and opportunities to learn and grow understand what I’ve touched on previously – the idea that our personal paths to success are not always linear, but can have sideways detours or downturns. Or what one leadership expert calls “career disruption.” These aren’t bad things!

Here’s what’s interesting about this concept. Once you’re down this personal path of self-leadership, it’s so easy to identify others who share this belief and are down a similar path. And, in a way, it’s easy to see others who aren’t.

There is often a strange intersection between discouragement, frustration and defeat … and opportunity, accomplishment and success. The gap between the two – our ability to move from defeat to success – often depends less on our ability to manage and lead others as it does on managing and leading ourselves.