Failure (or – Nobody gets through this journey without a stubbed toe)
So…you’ve been thinking about hiring me as your coach, have you?
Confession time: I failed the all-important oral portion of my coaching certification exam.
No…no. WAIT. Come back!
I mean I failed it the FIRST time. Nailed it the second. Yes, I am a fully certified coactive professional coach. And have been for well over a year.
Are we better now?
I guess I had THAT coming. Should have kept my mouth shut.
Here’s the story. It’s short and painful. Or at least, it was.
I worked hard during the 6-month certification process. Studied intently, got excellent grades on MOST of my supervisions. Breezed through the written part of the exam.
Then I got super cocky.
So cocky, in fact, that I chose to book the oral portion (live coaching of certification supervisors) on my birthday. I mean, what’s one more awesome thing to celebrate, right?
There was not a doubt in my mind that I was gonna win. Was loud and proud on my Facebook page. Bottle of champers at the ready.
Like this picture of me when I was 9.
Love that kid and her “I’m gonna win” strut, right?
But sometimes we don’t win. In fact, sometimes we fail.
Well, you know the drill. First I was in denial. Then I got mad, then petulant, then self-indulgent. Then probably mad again. Then I needed validation that there were OTHER amazing coaches who had failed (there were many.)
Eventually, I landed on this: I’ll take the exam again. I’ll learn from this experience. I won’t like it, but I’ll do it.
So I did.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Confident is good. Cocky, less so. – Confidence is knowing what you are capable of. Cockiness is not leaving any room for error.
2. To win the game, you have to play the game. – I relistened to the audio of the exam. Just once. (It was all I could bear.) The coaching I did in that oral exam was excellent. I’d certainly hire me. But I didn’t use the SPECIFIC coaching tools I was being tested on. Kind of like being in a culinary examination on your ability to create puff pastry, and trying to wow the examiners with your meringue prowess. Possibly delicious, and highly irrelevant. Had I been the supervisor looking for those tools, I’d also have failed me.
3. You have to know the rules to break the rules. – I’m fiercely proud of the year and a half that I spent training to become a coactive coach. And I’m not coactive in my coaching all of the time. I don the hat that my client requires me to wear in that moment. Without exception.
4. Fail fast, recover faster. Lick your wounds and get back on the horse before you’ve made up your mind that you will never ride again. Because you know not-so-very-deep down that to never ride again is just punitive bullshit.
5. Lean into your friends. (Imma lookin’ at you, Lisa). They’ll remind you of this all-important truth, even when you choose not to see it:
6. Fail ≠ you are a failure.
7. If you’re a blogger, do not write about your process while you’re in your process. You need time, space and perspective to parse out what’s valuable for yourself and your readers. It’s one thing to be authentically vulnerable…quite another to do an emotional striptease.
8. You can still be a Super Star AND have failed. Like Beethoven. Gates. Lucas. Lincoln. Edison. Churchill. Spielberg. Ford. Honda. Disney. Winfrey. Socrates. Seinfeld. Godin. Ask your idol – she’ll tell you about the time she failed. It’s like a friend once said: Nobody gets through this journey without a stubbed toe or two.
I’d much rather learn from success than from failure, but I’d be a fool not to take the learnings where I can.
And honey? I may have failed, but I ain’t no fool, I ain’t no Failure, and surely to heaven above, I will fail again. But I’m also gonna win. Lots.