Photo Credit: Afa Ah Loo,

So, I tried and failed. Now what? As a coach, I’m naturally predisposed to not believing in the “F” word. In my world, “F*ing” doesn’t exist; it’s a monstrous fairy tale told for the sole purpose of scaring little children and preventing adults from leaping faithfully into the unknown.

But then there’s that other part of me, the deep, visceral grossness that festers in the dank blackness. You know the part. The part that gags when someone says, “There’s no failure because things always turn out the way they’re supposed to.” Or becomes nauseated when it hears, “when one door closes another opens.”

Or retches painfully at, “You haven’t failed. You just found a way that didn’t work, like Thomas Edison inventing the lightbulb.” Let’s be honest. At some point, that part of us wallowing in the pool of self-pity and humiliation wants to punch those people in the face.

Fail. The most insidious “F” word in the book.

This is what happened. My fledgling coaching practice is in its infancy, and I’ve been struggling to learn to walk–by which I mean to clearly define my niche and connect with my target audience. Recently, I narrowed my focus to small business owners by the simple fact that every single one of my clients thus far owns a small business.

I guess you could say small business owners are “trending” for me. In working with my clients, I’d created several powerful exercises to help them clarify their business values and goals and mission. So, I had a stroke of genius! To build my network and grow my business and serve other struggling small business owners, why not compile my awesome exercises and host a workshop?

Which is exactly what I did. Within weeks I edited my existing exercises, created exciting new ones, and wrote a script–with music and balloon animals included (trust me, it all fits together)–giving birth to a four-hour, intensive, interactive workshop. I rented a nice space and ordered all the necessary materials for success. I was a beaming, proud parent holding a child everyone would love! Except, they didn’t.

See, I don’t have an extensive network of followers or a tribe of like-minded people backing me. I have twenty-six Facebook followers and twenty of them are family, who, by law, have to like me. So, for all my passionate posts and poignant videos heralding the virtues of my invaluable workshop, only five people read and only five people watched . . . five people who don’t own small businesses.

Did I fail? Grandly and with panache! But did I really? I realized from this experience that, while I know in my heart that failure isn’t real, I’d never really been presented the opportunity to examine it up close, first hand, turning it over and around to inspect all its jagged corners–to honestly and objectively reflect on what failing really is.

Failure’s simply one possible perception, no more tangible than a shimmering mirage rippling in the interminable, scorched desert. It’s a word we’ve come to associate with experiencing an outcome less than expected or desired after performing a task.

Stated simply, the “F” word’s just one possible description for an outcome in relation to what we expect. And this is going to blow your mind: expectations are also not real. They’re daydreams of what we think we’d like to happen–in the future, a time itself that isn’t real. So, the “F” word’s just an adjective for an outcome defined by a wish that isn’t real, occurring in a time that hasn’t yet happened. I think I just blew my own mind.

So, if all this isn’t real, what is? This moment. All that ever truly exists is this moment, and it’s only what we do or don’t do in this moment that matters.

This moment’s free from expectations, from the future, and from the past, which is exactly why failure’s a mystical creature. By now you’re questioning how this relates to you and why you’re still reading this article. The idea’s simple. Live life with no expectations and you’ll never fall into the Dreadful Pit of Failure. The application, however, is a different story.

Let’s separate fact from fiction. Our key variables thus far are:

  1. the task or project,
  2. our expectation of the results of the task,
  3. the outcome of the task, and
  4. the adjective describing our performance of the task.

Variables Two and Four we’ve already identified as fiction. Variable Three, while a fact, is outside of our control. That leaves us looking at Variable One, our task or project. There’s one important question we’ve yet to ask.

What’s the goal?

My goal was to create a valuable workshop of powerful tools to help struggling small business owners gain clarity about how their business is doing business. My goal was also to increase my network and build my business. Did I achieve my goals? The first, yes; the second, no. So, did I fail? No, my work is simply not yet done.

So, the next time you’re struggling in the reeking muck of failure, float for a moment and ask yourself, “What was my goal?” When you’ve identified your goal, then ask yourself, “Did I achieve my goal?”

If the answer is yes, pull yourself out of the cesspool, hose yourself off, and do a happy dance! If the answer is no, then you haven’t failed, you just haven’t finished yet. Get back to work achieving that goal!

 Photo Credit: Afa Ah Loo,