The Key to Coping With Failure


In Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, he speaks of the dreaded R we didn’t learn in school with Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.


It’s the word responsible for more failed dreams than anything else. It’s unfinished projects, unsuccessful diets, and unfulfilled dreams. It’s the fear inside that said, “Well last time I failed at that. I’m never going to do that again!”

It’s what’s keeping us all hidden, scared, and silenced.

It’s the reason why we place so much meaning, value and importance on feedback. We’re afraid of the shame that comes from failing, the unworthiness factor, the belief tucked under that asks, “Am I good enough?”

What helped me recently is reading this Real Simple quote:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

You mean to tell me that I can fail again. That the goal to success is to not avoid failure, but to fail better?

That’s what I thought too.

When I realized I didn’t have to tip-toe through the minefield of failure because if I’m growing, it will always be present, life seemed a lot less overwhelming.

The key isn’t to figure out how to never fail again. The key is to fail more efficiently.

What does that mean?

Instead of getting 10 rejections, shoot for 5. Instead of a complete overhaul of your copy, focus on getting feedback to edit a few sentences.

This may sound like shooting for the grass instead of the trees or the clouds instead of the moon. But if you continue on the path of 1 step forward, 2 steps backwards, you will eventually get there. If you approach a dream with the belief that you have to succeed flawlessly, you’re more likely to get overwhelmed and give up.

So that’s my motto these days.

Fail successfully…

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When Your Best Isn’t Quite Good Enough

{Etsy print from lizzylemonsouthsea}

{Etsy print from lizzylemonsouthsea}

From Out of Control to Controlling

I felt out of control a lot as a kid. We all did. We were completely dependent on tall, powerful beings that controlled what we could eat, what time we could go to bed, and what we did. While there is comfort in depending on others, it made me feel trapped, unhappy and unsafe. As a result, I developed ways to carve out a sense of freedom in little ways.

It turned me into a nerdy perfectionist. I demanded A’s in all of my classes. And when I didn’t get it? I pulled a Cher (from Clueless) and talked my way into one. This may not sound surprising to you. But imagine a C average grade school student who was so shy she would rather fail a class than do an oral report, and you might understand how shocking this was. But getting good grades was so immediately gratifying! There was nothing else in my life that allowed me to get direct and positive results like that. The idea that I could change my world by simply working hard taught me an important lesson about life:

Hard work = Good grades

Unfortunately, I learned after college and graduate school that life itself didn’t work that way. Sometimes you can try your hardest and still end up failing.

What Failure Means In Your Life

There are many moments in my life when I feel like a failure. I feel it when I don’t get a writing job. I feel it when I’m having a bad day. Sometimes I’m overcome with self-doubt when I wake up in the morning. But I never let it stay.

I realized that I am not God. I don’t know why things are happening so why sabotage the gift of what is for the gift I want.

On Super Soul Sunday, spiritual teacher Panache Desai said something so profound that it completely altered the way I saw my life.

He said, “Life is happening for you and not to you.”

It was just a play on semantics, a simple juggling of words. But the idea stayed with me, shook me up and changed the way I saw everything in my life.

Maybe that writing opportunity I didn’t get wasn’t right for me so it fell out my grasp. Maybe that house I was dreaming about wasn’t taken from me, but hidden for me so that I could find the true home of my dreams.

I used it on a trip to California last week and saw gifts bloom like flowers in Spring time. I didn’t hem or haw over lost sleep one night and the next morning I was grateful for the fatigue-I slept like a baby on the plane. I wasn’t worried about being on standby and got first class instead. I didn’t plan our trip to Monterey and found places my husband and I, who have been there multiple times, had never been. In the week that I was there, I learned that by letting go of my own expectations, I made room for life to unfold as it should. And the outcome was more beautiful, and more breathtaking than I could have imagined.

The thing about failure and about being “good enough” is that it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. Maybe what you’re labeling as failure in your own life is simply your life..

unfolding for you

not to you.

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The Baggage On Your Journey

Oprah says we all have a calling. And we should find that calling as soon as possible. Who wouldn’t want to find it? As best-selling author and spiritual teacher Carolyn Myss said in her newsletter recently:

“…any human being who consciously ignites or accepts his or her soul’s path awakens their charism – their unique grace that once unlocked, reshapes their world in ways that person could never imagine. It is only then that a person can truly begin to live a fully original life.”

Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a golden path leading to it? There would be no question where to go to fulfill our purpose.

Yet, we’re not completely left in the dark.

It can feel that way when we’re going from job to job or staying the same one for twenty years. It may even feel like abandonment. “Why have all the good ones been taken?” you ask. “Why is there nothing left for me?”

It’s only insecurity, lack of confidence, a mislead intention that blinds us. What I’ve come to learn is that what you want is already in front of you. You just need to remove the blinders to see it.

The Blinders Impeding Your Path

What I can tell you from my own experience with 15+ jobs in the last 15 years is that your greatest obstacle to finding your true calling is you. If you were to shred any fear you have of failing OR succeeding, if you were to remove any financial worries or concerns about what other people would think, you would know what you’re put here to do. A lot of times we let external circumstances dictate our life.

I spent several years taking jobs that I thought I “should” take because of the money. I spent those years miserable, angry, resentful over the time I spent in them. I mistakenly believed that like “no pain, no gain,” you had to hate your job to make a living.

This is why it took me over a decade to find what I already knew in elementary school! I spent weekends pretending to be a reporter. I asked for a typewriter when I was a kid. I was on my school’s news bulletin and later high school newspaper staff. I majored in English. But instead of pursuing a career as a writer, I worked as a private investigator, a research assistant, a marketing assistant, a counselor. All great careers by the way. All experiences that have helped me be a better writer. But it’s taken me that much longer to figure out my true calling.

Hopefully, it won’t take you that long to find yours.

How to Get Back on Track

If you’re gotten off track and need a few bread crumbs to dig you out, listen to this woman’s advice on spotting a great opportunity from

“When you’re weighing an opportunity, make the question that simple: Do I really want this, or am I doing it for the money or the prestige or because I think I should? It can’t just be about those things. It has to make you feel good, too.” – Christina Wayne, former senior VP at AMC, current president of Cineflix Studios, and an executive producer of the new BBC America series Copper

And ask yourself these same questions about the current job you’re in. Are you where you are because you chose this course or are you here to feel validated, to make money, to please someone other than yourself?

This type of soul searching will push you in the direction you need to go. It takes courage to answer truthfully. But you will get there if you allow your true voice to come forward.

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When Creativity Stops

{by The Inspiring Bee}

You might have experienced a flow of creativity in the past. Ideas were popping. Creativity was flowing. And then zilch. Just like that the river’s run dry. Does this mean you pack your bags and fly toward a new career?

Nope. Not quite.

Like anything else, creativity has its ups and downs. Just because you’re soaring on creativity Cloud Nine doesn’t mean you won’t end up in a valley somewhere. Similarly if you’re stuck in a creative rut, don’t give up just yet. You’ll eventually get back to the mountains.

The thing is we only ever hear about the triumph, the success stories, the grand accomplishments. We rarely hear about the failure, the surmounting challenges, being in the midst of defeat.

Most people want to glorify the former and forget about the latter. Either that or like labor, we forget about the pain it took to birth that beautiful baby.

In Jonah Lehrer’s new book Imagine: How Creativity Works he magically says the following. Yes I said magically. More on that later.

“Every creative journey begins with a problem. It starts with a feeling of frustration, the dull ache of not being able to find the answer. We have worked hard, but we’ve hit the wall…”

It’s a normal part of the journey. But as Lehrer points out. Here’s where the magic comes in.

“When we tell one another stories about creativity, we tend to leave out this phase of the creative process. We neglect to mention those days when we wanted to quit, when we believed that our problems were impossible to solve. Because such failures contradict the romantic version of events-there is nothing triumphant about a false start-we forget about them…Instead, we skip straight to the breakthroughs.”

The magical part is two-fold: 1) He reveals the truth no one likes to talk about-that all creative success involves failure. 2) It’s a natural step in the course of creativity.

The answer lies not in doing more work, forcing yourself to become creative or even giving up completely.

It’s in taking a break from finding out what’s next. It’s the unknown that holds your answer.

So the next time you feel frustrated and catch yourself in the midst of a difficult problem, don’t sweat it. The answers will come. Creativity will flow again.

Your biggest enemy toward your creativity isn’t outside yourself. It’s your own negative, critical thoughts and fears that hold you back.

When creativity stops, rest. And rest assure, the floodgates will eventually open again.

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What Lies Are Holding You Back?

{photo by The Inspiring Bee}

For me, it was:

“You’re not creative.

You’re not talented enough.

No one’s going to really believe you’re a writer.

Writer’s don’t make $.

You’re nothing special.

There are millions of people more talented than you so why try?”

Deep in the dark, dusty corners of my mind was a slew of non-confronted falsities that were not only taking up some important real estate, but were insidiously controlling my life.

I realized to get beyond it, I would need to tackle each one. And not just with sprinkles of positivity, but gut-wrenching courage, anger, and a fiery attitude. If could not change completely get rid of the voice that brought me down, I sure as hell would not let it control my life.

Maybe you’re battling your own lifetime of lies. Well today is the day you decide to stop listening to them!

  • Do not spend any more time, energy or money on believing in something that is not your own truth.
  • Do not give away your power to “friends,” relatives, co-workers, acquaintances who wither in your light.
  • Do not focus on what you can’t do.
  • Stop believing that you need a guarantee to go forward with your dreams.

The only difference between you and your successful colleague is that they ventured out and tried.

Free yourself from the lies that you’ve been told about what’s possible for your life.

Embrace who you are wholeheartedly and dare to risk that every thing you’ve been told about how ___ (fat, dumb, ugly, stupid, untalented, etc.) you are, is untrue.

Create your own reality.

Define your own life.

Then join us reformed souls on the other side.

{If you want to learn how I found an extraordinary moment while in traffic, check out my latest article for Beliefnet Health, “Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary.”}

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