“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.” J.K. Rowling
I’m sure you have heard the motivation that Thomas Edison didn’t fail at creating the light bulb. He just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work. What does it mean to fail? Freedictionary.com lists endless definitions of the word fail:
1- To fall short of something
2- To be or become deficient
3- To stop functioning or operating
4- To prove of no use
How does it feel to you to fail at something? For most of us, failing feels like a dark hole we plummet into. It feels cold and empty, it feels like the world has abandoned us, turned its back on us; learned the truth about who we really are. People suddenly seem to have a lack of faith in our abilities but mostly we suddenly feel a lack of faith in ourselves. It just feels ugly.
Recently I came face to face with what I felt was a failure in my coaching. I felt it deep. I felt like I was gutted like a fish. My client and I just weren’t jiving with each other and it was uncomfortable. My natural instinct was to work harder, talk more, protect and defend my ego. I knew I was falling off the rails, so far from what a true coach should be for their client and I couldn’t seem to stop the train wreck.
During our last session together I received, what turned out to be in hindsight, the greatest gift my client could have given to me in the form of feedback. What kind of person do you have to be in order to openly hear the bad stuff? A tough person, an empathetic person, a person who is willing to learn? Perhaps all of those things but it’s not easy to hear the bad stuff regardless of how tough you are. I was praised but I was also put in a place of heightened awareness and heightened empathy. It’s not that I forgot these natural aspects of coaching or that these characteristics are natural for me but I seemed to have misplaced it somehow.
I could have quite naturally just thrown my hands up and said, “I give up, I can’t do this, I’m not meant to be a coach.” I could have pulled deep into myself and cut off communication from my client and given up on my other clients as well. I could have just shut down.
I didn’t. As it turned out, purely by happenstance, I attended my weekly coaching resource meeting the night following my feedback session. Normally there are at least 10 attendees each week for this resource meeting. This night I was the only attendee along with my mentor coach. I never thought to get coached on what I had just experienced but that is what happened.
For one amazing, life changing, reality grabbing hour, someone I absolutely respect and admire helped me to understand, quite powerfully, that what I perceived as an epic failure has become one of the greatest lessons of my coaching career. I didn’t fail. Sometimes it happens that a coach and client just don’t mesh. Sometimes, no matter how hard we both try, resistance shows up and it can’t be explained. That is not an opportunity to excuse or pass the buck or disown what I was feeling. It was a wake- up call for me. I got very lost and out of touch with what I know to be true as a coach and therefore caused my client to get lost as well. My mentor role played with me and I suddenly felt able to see the lesson to be learned. In being able to leave myself open to the experience of learning and growing and reaching for the truth, my truth, then this experience with this client is not a failure. I have the ability to turn it into a success.
I believe there has to be a spark inside of our being in order to brush ourselves off and start again. It can’t just be that we fall into the dark abyss and give up. I left the resource meeting, the miracle meeting as I have come to believe it to have been, feeling like I was floating. I didn’t know where I was going to land, I just knew that I had to experience the lesson I just received and see how it would take hold.
When I woke up the next morning the first thing I said to myself was, “I can’t wait to fail again.” I felt energized and more alive than I had felt in weeks. We remember forever that which touches our heart and soul. It’s not that I want to constantly learn through failure but in this instance I have an indelible mark on my soul and my heart that can only make me a better person and a better coach. There will always be something to learn because I want so desperately to learn and I know I can learn through success as well as failure. I ask the universe to help me learn and the universe answers me quite well.
When I was a photographer and I would encounter unexpected equipment trouble on a photo shoot, I leaned more powerfully about how to fix the problem than if I had taken a class to lean about how a camera works. Through “failure” moments the lesson is etched deep into our core and we tend to remember what went wrong better because it is accompanied with the ugly feeling of perhaps embarrassment, aloneness, stage fright, all eyes on you kind of feeling. In those amazing make or break moments we have the opportunity to create our powerful story. We can end the story with the defeat or we can be our own hero and when someone asks, “and then what happened”, or, “oh my goodness, what did you do”, we can tell our story with honor and energy and success.
When you are suddenly facing a “failure” situation try to ask yourself:
1- What is possible?
2- What can I learn from this?
3- How do I want this to define me?
It is so hard, so hard, to face the fear of failure but in the ashes of the failure your truth is born. I don’t know yet if my feedback client will ultimately choose to continue working with me. I do know that either way I am a better coach for having gone through this experience and that I will be a better coach for my client if the opportunity presents itself.
There are powerful antonyms for failure that you can keep in your arsenal to help energize your story. Words like accomplishment, achievement, win, success, grit, gain, merit, attainment. How would you like these words to show up for you? What words will you use to help tell your story? What will be your truth? Will your story read as if you’ve never lived at all or will your story enlighten, embolden, empower not only you but all the people who want to learn about the hero that you are?
Dare to fail greatly so that we can all learn from your ecstatic experience. Dare to Journey On…..
If you would like to learn more about how Lisa can help you through your life story please send an email to: email@example.com