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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?

Not really?

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.


  1. You know what? I needed to hear the confident vs cocky bit. Thanks Tanya!

    • I went to church for the first time in many (MANY) years yesterday and the sermon was about exaltation and humility. Am still sitting with what came up for me…will write about it when it’s landed. Thank you for sharing what resonated…it so matters. xo

  2. Love the nine year old you, first of all. Thank you for a message I needed to hear today. In fact I seem to need to relearn this daily. I worry a lot about #7, since I don’t know that I’m through the process that I’m writing about … in some ways the writing IS my way of processing, you know? Eeek. I don’t want to be making that mistake, though.
    Thanks for inspiring me, today and every day.

    • Writing is akin to pouring streams of thoughts into a pensieve, to be able to pull out strands to sift through for sense and learnings. A wise and wonderful woman showed me that a while ago. It’s my truth too. When I WANTED to write about the failure last year, I was too far in. I was too mad. I was too indignant. Righteous and reeling. It’s taken me this long to see what needed to be revealed, to be able to share the value (I hope).

  3. Yes. Thank you. Yes. Needed this. Love.

    • We allll do. I think that’s why I right…so I can keep coming back to remind myself as required. xo

  4. You can’t be a superstar without having failed. That’s what superstars do – they take risks, fail, learn, take more risks, one pans out, then another, then another and voila. A dream fulfilled, a person potentialed. Salute!

    • Salute indeed!

  5. Fantastic lessons!

    I firmly believe you can’t succeed without failure, especially if you are left with empowering stories to share about the journey!

    • Glad to be in such good company! Thank you Natalie!

  6. I love a beautifully written story after the lesson and processing (see #7) and honey #8 and I are such good friends. I am pretty sure the reason I am win is that I thank failure often.

    You shine a light on us, thank you.

    • Thank YOU for this reminder: “thank failure often”

  7. I’m still working on coming to terms with the idea that I can screw up something and still continue to work at it after (and become GOOD). Everything came so easily to me in high school that it tainted the rest of my life going forward with an attitude of “If you can’t do it well right away, quit so you don’t waste your time”. I started a business based on coaching back in August, and ever since then I’ve been fighting that programming. I want to make this work, and that means effing stuff up every now and then. But I’m choosing to learn and add it to my experience rather than running away (even if it’s super hard right now).

    • BRAVO BRAVO ELLIE!!! In high school, it’s “easy” enough to stay the course (and by that I only mean that it’s all laid out: do this, then this, then this, then graduate). The realm of coaching and entrepreneurship is so ridiculously different in that NOTHING is laid out in a neat and tidy path. It’s all up to us (which, of course, is why we’re doing it). There are some markers along the way, but for the most part, I’ve found it to be an entirely heart-based process. Continuing to connect to my purpose keeps me going (mostly) forward. Failures and all.

  8. Tanya, thank you for sharing your experience! Ah – I could so relate to the range of emotions. My favorite: Fail faster, recover faster. It’s so true that the decision to not get up again is punitive bullshit. I love to watch how ice skaters will actually use the momentum of their fall to get back up onto their skates. Thank you for sharing with such honesty and candor. Your humanity makes you trustworthy, in my book. xo

    • It’s true, right? No one wants to see that skater stay down. We hold our breath until they’re back up then breathe a sigh of relief. The universe wants us to get back up.

  9. Thanks Tanya! We ALL experience failure occasionally, yet few of us take the time to process the lessons and share so powerfully with others. You rock sista!

    • Thank you K! So glad this resonated. xo

  10. “I’d much rather learn from success than failure…”

    For me, that’s just b.s. and I know it. Getting things wrong challenges me to find the better solution, to learn the new tool, to flip the problem upside down and clean jerk it up with fierce will power.

    Making mistakes, failing, is how I learn. Plain and simple.

    Too bad I forget that soooooo often! Thank you for the reminder. And thank you for writing this. Looks like quite a few of us are relating to what you gained from your experience.

    Sending lots of hugs and many butterflies your way,

    • I love the image of you showing that mistake who’s boss! Maybe it’s about tightening up the time the learning curve so the “what an ass I am for making that mistake” episode is shorter.

  11. I love this post and so appreciate your honesty. It is so important being gentle with ourselves and realizing this is all a process of learning through experience. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank YOU for stopping by with your time and comment. xo

  12. Gawd, it’s so hard to sit with failure. I’ve been doing a lot of failing lately — failing laterally, failing upward, failing aaaaalll over the place. Remembering that failure is part of the process (any process) is important, even if it’s uncomfortable. Really, really uncomfortable. Thanks for the reminder that even the best of the best (you!) are susceptible to fail. <3

    • Honey? The bigger we swing out the greater our chances for striking out. And home runs. We’ll both have our share of each. And more home runs than not. Either way, I’ll be in the stands for your games, munching popcorn and starting the wave, just for you. xo

  13. Hi Tanya,

    I think the biggest problem people have admitting they failed at something is that they don’t want to be branded a failure. Learning and adapting are my keys to deal with failure. I made a lot of mistakes when I started my business and I am still making mistakes. But the amount you learn from is is what makes it a worth while process.


    • Indeed. Which is why uncollapsing “fail” from “failure” is sooooooo critical. If you fail at something, then you failed at THAT. Not in life. Sit with it, brush off your pants, integrate the learning and move on.

      Thanks for being here, Nik!

  14. Because I adore you, I am indignantly protective that anyone would fail you at anything, ever. Because I have issues with authority, I read that you did some great coaching but didn’t tick the boxes on some reviewer’s sheet and I go, “Say what?!?!? No they DIDn’t!”

    Because you are so courageous in sharing your story–and because I know that this is how life goes sometimes–I frankly adore you all the more. You’re so golden.

    • You’re such a Mama Bear. Love you right back.

  15. Great story to hear. A teacher of life (my mother) quoted to me “People who never fail , are those who never learn.” That has helped me through many learning experiences. Your post was a good reminder.



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