Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: failure

Yes, the picture above is me, right before I learned how to ride a dirt bike this past Thanksgiving weekend (We will use the very loose definition of “learned” for this blog’s purposes). Anyway, that is the cool picture, by the way. Sadly, it was probably the only time I looked cool for the rest of the day.

It started out well enough, but get too many Type-A family members together and, well….yeah. Not pretty. I should learn not to bait to 12-year-old smack talk. Sigh. I took up the challenge that, despite being almost 40 and possessing no discernible motorcycle skills, I could learn how to ride a dirt bike. It had always been on my bucket list, so why not?

I tend to be a pretty fast learner, and, at least in the beginning, I seemed to be a natural. Ah, but here is where the problem can start. Apparently, there are two critical curves that should always run parallel–The Skill Curve and Confidence Curve. When the Confidence Curve outpaces the Skill Curve? You get this….

I was zooming along on the flat, nicely packed dirt having a good time. Ah, but then the thought sneaked, snuck, snooked—whatever—into my brain that I needed a bigger challenge. I wanted to try out some hills. It didn’t help that my 12 year old nephew was zooming circles around me.

You dang whipper-snipper! I’ll show you!

Sometimes I wish I had a Delorean so I could go back in time and slap some sense into Younger Kristen. What were you thinking? Getting in the Not-Smart-Zone. Seriously???? Why would you remotely think that is a good idea?

Photo courtesy of Fanboy.com

As you can probably guess, my motor cross experience was an #epicfail. I was looking good, so onlookers say (Ever notice they call them “onlookers” when referencing something stupid/tragic?).  Then I hit a rock and it was a$$ over elbows. I slightly sprained both ankles, bruised the dickens out of my shoulder, and took about five layers of hide off my right forearm…

…and then I got right back on.

This is what a life of failure has taught me. We try, we fail, we try again and do things differently, and sometimes even better. The faster we learn to have a healthier relationship with failure, the faster we will meet with success. Frankly, if we aren’t failing, then we aren’t doing anything interesting. So if failure is part of the successful person’s life, why not learn to fail with style?

Many of us spend years trying to avoid failing. I sure know I did. Many of us are so terrified that we will look foolish or stupid that we can be paralyzed. We allow fear to steal the best experiences and the best memories. How? If we fear failure, we never try. We fail by default.

Failure isn’t to be feared at all. In fact, failure is awesome. Failure makes us better. It makes us smarter. Failure will teach us more than success ever will.

For instance, I now know that if I ever get back on a dirt bike, hills are not my thing. I’ve learned to slow down, to not let my ego take over driving, because Kristen’s ego looks a lot like Mayhem.

Allstate Insurance provided actual photo of Kristen Lamb’s ego.

Yes, I admit there are times I would like to go back in time and right the wrongs, use some Space-Time-White-Out to make my life perfect. Yet, when I think about it a little harder, when I can press past the need to wince when I look at my short-comings, I see my failures a little differently. My failures make me more interesting. My funniest memories and most poignant lessons were all birthed by my failures. My failures shortened my learning curve. Failing made me humble. Failures made me teachable. Failures make me relatable.

Failure gets easier the more we fail. Sort of like those boxers who have someone throw a 12 pound medicine ball at their abdominals to toughen them to take a punch. What if, instead, they babied their bodies? They never hit their abs or bruised them. They would be toast. The best way to get good at failing is to try a lot of stuff and fail…and then fail some more.

Back to my dirt biking fiasco experience. I know years ago, my ego would have been far too bruised to fish my dirt bike off the side of the hill and try again. I would have felt sorry for myself, mortified and embarrassed. I would have nursed my stinging wounds and babied my tender ankles in the safe warm house…and I would have missed out on a lot of fun.

See, the other cool lesson about failing, and failing a lot, it we get better discernment. We are able to tell the difference between a mortal wound and something that stings like hell, but we can walk it off and be fine if we just get back on that horse (metaphorical dirt bike) and ride. We learn to pay better attention and not let the Confidence Curve surpass the Skill Curve. And, if we do?

Walk it off.

We also get better at discerning what activities are worth our time and talent. Dirt biking? Yeah….tried it, but don’t really see it in my future. I got back on, rode around for another hour and then was able to part ways with no unfinished business….no “what ifs?”.

Life is much the same way. My opinion? We should love as if we will never be hurt, give as if we can never lose, and try as if we can only win. Many of you following this blog are writers. Keep writing. Sure, the first novel might be awful, but keep moving. Let it go. You wiped out. Walk it off. I failed at #nanowrimo. After a month, I only had 33,000 words. What did I learn? That I have room to grow. I have 33,000 more words than when I started. Failing is part of living, so get back on and write again and again and THAT is how best-selling novels are made. And, if failure is part of being a successful author, then why not #EpicFail with style ;)?

So what are your #EpicFails? What has failure taught you? Are you still afraid of failing? Why? Share! I love hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of December I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books!

Today, we are going to talk a bit about failure. All writers who dare to dream seem to have this same fear–FAILURE. It can seem larger than life and everything fades away in the face of this looming beast. I want to let you in on a little secret. For many years I was the best, the Big Kahuna, the Big Gal on Campus. I was positively THE most successful person…at failing.

A little about me…

I was a high school drop out at the age of 15, then again at 16. I worked as a waitress, but was a really bad waitress. I lost my job and returned to school. I finally graduated high school at the age of 19. No one figured I would make much out of my life since it’s highly likely I graduated last in my class. I think by the time you get a GPA as low as mine was, they just start listing you alphabetically.

I came from a military family, so I decided to enlist in the Army…only I got sick in the middle of the physical and failed. Doc gave me a medical disqualification (DQ).


So, I dusted myself off and attended junior college. I figured I’d go to school and try the Navy. I come from a family of Squids, so that wasn’t so bad. I put in all my paperwork…then they found out about the Army. Sigh. Apparently a medical DQ lasted two years.

No Navy for me.

Back to the drawing board (school). I knew the medical DQ would run out, so I worked really hard and ended up winning a full military scholarship to become a doctor. I didn’t really want to become a doctor, but this was the best scholarship and I was broke ergo not picky. I transferred to T.C.U. and began pre-med. I swore in to the Air Force (yes, I made my rounds of all the branches) and pledged my life to serving my country as a future military doctor.

Two years in, I was a shining scholar with a 3.79 average. Then, in March of 1995, Fort Worth was hit with an ice storm and T.C.U. refused to cancel classes. On my way to class, I slipped and fell and hit my lower back on a concrete curb…and fractured it.

Bye, bye military. Bye-bye scholarship. Bye-bye medical school.

I returned to school a semester later. I had to use a cane for eight months as my back healed and there was no such thing as handicapped access to anything in those days. It seemed every class I had signed up for was on the third floor, too. But I did my best and took it one class at a time.

I didn’t want to be a doctor if the DoD wasn’t picking up the tab. Didn’t have the money. So I changed majors because I could no longer afford to be on a medical track. This was all well and good except that it set me back. Instead of being a junior, I was back to being a sophomore.

Felt a little like high school.

But, I had changed degrees and really loved political economy. I studied the Middle East and North Africa and felt I could make a difference. So you can imagine my excitement when I was asked to help with a business development project in Syria. I would live in the Yarmouk Camp (a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria) and help modernize a paper facility.

Well, that was the plan at least.

The day after graduation I hopped on a plane. I was full of hope, dreams and passion, and just knew I would make a difference. I would knock this project out of the park and it would look SO awesome on my grad school application (I was applying for a special doctorate program).

Yeah….um, no.

It was a great experience but pretty much a huge failure. No matter what we tried, we hit a wall of bureaucratic red tape and corruption. I came back to the States and gave up on grad school. The hallowed halls of academia were too far removed from reality and I realized it was no longer for me.

I went to work in software sales and then paper sales and was dismal at both. I was a hard worker, but it always seemed that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and the competition was eating me alive. Thus, it was only a matter of time before my position—and me—would be eliminated.

I failed at high school, failed at the military, failed to become a doctor or a professor and now I was quite possibly THE worst salesperson on the planet.

…and I wouldn’t trade one minute of it.

My failures taught me far more than success ever did. Many of you reading this are terrified of failure. I want to let you in on a little secret–Failure is not the end. Failure is a teacher. It will guide you to who you should be. Too often we give failure too much power. We think it is the end, when in reality it is training us for a better future. What if I HAD been successful? What if I was now a military flight surgeon? I wouldn’t be doing what I love and I wouldn’t be here to help you guys, to let you know it isn’t as bad as you might think.

Failing in school taught me to keep pressing on, even when that meant being embarassed. It was humiliating being 19 in an English class full of 14 year-olds.

Failing at the military taught me that some doors shut for very good reasons. Sometimes our prayers are answered, it’s just the answer happens to be “no.”

Failing in Syria taught me discernment. I jumped into a project before I thought it out fully. I wouldn’t trade the experience for all the gold in the world, but the project was doomed from the start. I should have done more research and planned better.

Failing at sales taught me that trying to do everything myself was a formula for disaster. It taught me to form teams and that relationships are the most important possession we have. When I was in sales, I didn’t want to bother other people and I tried to do too much on my own. My failure was an inability to delegate and form a team I could depend upon.

I now understand that any success I enjoy is not because of ME, because I am anything special. It is because of opportunities, blessings and support granted me from other people.

Our success is only a culmination of a lot of team support. There are no self-made best-sellers.

We can’t do this alone.

Failure is scary, but failure is priceless to the person who can embrace it. Failure should be rewarded because it means we are taking a risk. People who never fail rarely do anything remarkable. Nothing great was ever created in the comfort zone. Sure there are people who seem to succeed at everything they do, but the Midas Touch is not the norm. I want to learn from great people who failed yet pressed on and succeeded despite setbacks. I want to learn about creating wealth from Donald Trump, not the latest lottery winner.

Many of you who read my blogs want to be successful writers. If I can give you any advice, it is to learn to embrace failure. When we are in the middle of the storm, it is hard to see the bigger picture. It is tough to see how these setbacks and disappointment might actually be shaping a more brilliant future than we can ever imagine.

When I was a little girl I dreamed of being a famous writer and teacher, but I was told that was a foolish dream. So I traded in that dream for more practical dreams—a military career, becoming a doctor, sales. And you know what? I thank God every day that I failed at everything I ever tried because eventually I failed so much I no longer feared it, and THAT is when success started coming my way.

I took bigger and bigger risks and was more willing to throw my heart and all my passions into something because I finally understood failure never meant the end…it just meant the beginning of something new and I would be stronger for it.

The strongest blades are forged in the hottest fires. Adversity is the fire that removes the impurities in our character. Failure is the forge that creates excellence. One of the strongest forms of steel in the world is Damascus steel. Damascus steel is fired, folded and hammered hundreds of times, and it is this fiery brutal birth that makes it so strong. What about you? Are you a failure, or are you on your way to being Damascus steel?

Fifteen years ago, I had the talent to do great things and reach great heights, but I didn’t have the character to stay there. Failure taught me to work hard, set goals and, above all, remain humble and value people. YOU guys are my most valuable possession. You guys are my team and my support and I cannot reach my dreams without your help. It is my honor and privilege to keep your company, to hear your voice and to learn from you. If I can offer anything in return, it is my support and lessons I’ve learned from a lifetime of doing just about everything wrong.

Failure is our friend. When I get what I like to call a “God’s-eye point of view” and see the big picture, I am SO thankful I didn’t succeed in the military, medical school or even sales. Success would have robbed me of all of you. I remember the tears and the depression and the self-loathing I felt after each failure, but what if I had been given a look at my future? I would have danced for joy!

We all start out a hunk of metal, just like the Damascus steel blade. Adveristy and failure fire out the impurities and strengthen our character and resolve. Failure might sting now, but if you could see the bigger picture, I imagine you would dance for joy as well.

What are some challenges you guys have faced? What did you learn? Are you facing something now and feel as if you are losing your nerve? What lessons do you think you can take away?

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

I am teaching TWO workshops at Write It Forward. Sign up HERE. There is a Becoming a Brand class for $20, but if you want to blog and you need my dedicated help to helping you find your own unique brand and develop a plan for blogging, then the $40 Blogging to Build a Brand will fit that need. In this class I will run you through exercises to help find and create a brand as unique as you and then tailor it to connect with your future fans.

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Many of you reading this blog aspire to be professional authors, and that is a fantastic goal. I blog three times a week to help you guys reach that goal and far sooner than you imagined. Writing can be the best job in the world, but I feel too many beginners glamourize the profession and fail to get the proper emotional preparation before traipsing off to battle. That is a formula to get creamed. So, today I am going to give you some perspective and tools to be successful.

Becoming a professional writer isn’t all rainbow and unicorns. Let’s face it. Many of us are screwed from the beginning. We have our basic personality working against us. What do I mean? To put it bluntly? Writing is a vortex of flakes. We creative people are not usually known for our self-discipline. I’ve been there. I don’t know about you guys, but I am a notorious procrastinator. I was once the High Queen of Do-It-Later Land, a sorrowful place of forgotten Post-It Notes, where the roads are paved with shiny good intentions.

What I have observed over the years is that very often, the personalities that are the most creative, also tend to be free-spirits who flutter around like fruit flies with severe ADD high off a case of Red Bull. Now, we are great at being creative, but unless it’s channeled and focused, creativity just looks like that kid who likes to run head-first into a wall over and over while giggling. Thus, it is easy to see why people might roll their eyes the day we announce we want to be a writer.

Writing is a very emotional business, and to write well, we must reach into the deepest parts of our being…and then place them out for public display. After running countless critique groups and helping hundreds of writers, I will share some advice that will help you reach your dreams. We will resume talking about craft next week. But all the craft classes in the world will not benefit you if your heart and mind aren’t in the correct place.

Persistence can look a lot like Stupid

Oh Twitter. It is so fun to watch all these writing quotes float by. One of the favorites of the newbie writer (Yes, it was mine too :P) is You know what you call the writer who never gives up? Published. I have no idea who said that, and it doesn’t matter anyway. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great quote. But, it really kind of needs a caveat, because persistence can look a lot like stupid.

My goal can be to climb Mt. Everest, but if I am on Mt. Shasta then I am not persistent, I am a moron.

You are on the wrong mountain!

Can’t hear you! I’m climbing! Never give up!

But you are on the wrong mountain you idiot!

What??? You’re just a dream-stealer! My motivational coach said you would try to stop me! I’m climbing! Never give up!

I teach at a lot of conferences, and every year I see the same writers shopping the same novel that has been rejected time and time and time again. These writers show year after year spending good money, believing that they just haven’t found the right agent who will see the beauty in their vampire-mystery-romance-YA-horror-memoir. It is as if they are stuck in a feedback loop. They can’t move on until this book gets an agent. They believe that if they don’t get an agent for this book, then they are a failure. No!

I have been there. I shopped my first novel for three years then woke up one day and realized I was swimming against the current carrying a corpse. When you make a decision to become a writer, you will be swimming against the current. People are fascinated by people who dare to dream and do great things. But….deep down, while they admire them, they also resent them.

Do not expect your family to embrace your decision. In fact, expect them to believe your writing group is really a cult (see Writer Reality Check). So expect to be swimming upstream, which is a heck of a lot harder to do carrying dead weight. If your book is being rejected time and time and time again, move on. Maybe you will grow enough to fix that first novel at a later time. Or, maybe you will take it for what it is…a learning experience. Always be moving forward.

Persistence is a noble trait; tunnel-vision is not. Be persistent. Read more books on the craft. Sign up for on-line workshops. Read…a lot. Be persistent the right way and the payoff will eventually come.

Learn to Fail Forward

One of the biggest frustrations I have with writers is their attitude toward failure. I think we like being tragic. Goes with our artsy side.

Hand over the beret. Give. This is for your own good.

Learn to have a healthy relationship with failure. One of my favorite books is Failing Forward by John Maxwell. I highly recommend everyone to read it. This book changed my life.

I used to have constant panic attacks. I was absolutely paralyzed by fear. All I could see was what I hadn’t accomplished. I magnified my failures and minimized my progress. Instead of looking forward, I was always looking over my shoulder to the past, crying over the broken dreams and what ifs? That is a load of crap.

Want to know the difference between winners and losers? There are 2 critical differences.

1)      Winners have a healthy relationship with failure. Losers cry and whine and self-flagellate when they fail to meet the mark. Their focus is always on failure so that’s where they stay. Winners, however, look at failure as a stepping stone. They land on their tush and scratch their head and ask critical questions.

Why didn’t this work?

What went wrong?

At what point did my plan go south?

What can I do differently next time?

Do I need to adjust my goals?

All through the month of November I kept my eyes on the #nanowrimo hash tag column. For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, a # symbol will put you in a group bound by that topic. Time after time I wanted to scream as writers posted crap like this:

My goal was 1000 words today. Only wrote 300. #nanowrimo #epicfail

I saw that stupid #epicfail over and over and over. Now how do you think the Epic Fail group fared for National Novel Writing Month?

But, I also saw tweets like this:

My goal was 1000. Only made 500. Hey, 500 more than I had. Will start earlier tomorrow. #nanowrimo

Which writer do you feel will have a better chance at success?

Hear me now—Where the mind goes, the man follows.

If our mind is always on our failure and where we blew it, then that is where we will go. But here is the thing, we are in control. We are the boss.

I’m going to give you guys a great tactic to keep your mind on the positive. I want you guys to picture a monster crouched in your soul. Every time you beat yourself up, call yourself names, whine about how life isn’t fair…you feed it. As you feed this monster, he grows larger and larger and hungrier and more demanding.

How do you kill him? You can’t. We are human and he is a part of us. We can’t kill him, but we sure as hell can weaken him. How?

We starve him.

Every time you go to open your mouth and gripe about some way you failed to make the mark, stop yourself. Take a breath and rephrase in the positive.

I didn’t make my goal of 1000 words…..BUT I did write 300 and that is 300 words in the right direction. Every day I am getting better and better. I’m not where I want to be, but I am not where I was.

Starve that monster in your soul and he will get skinnier and smaller and weaker. Eventually he will be starved long enough that he will lose his appetite, and you will be a happier, more optimistic person for it.

2)      Winners have an internal locus of control.

Your locus of focus is very important. People with an external locus of focus believe other people or things hold all the power to their lives.

Well if my family would just take me seriously, then I know I would write more.

If I just had a better computer, then I’d write more.

If I just had quiet time, then I would be more productive.

IF we want to be winners, our goal is to maintain an internal locus of focus. We are in control of all things. We cannot control others. We cannot control events. The only thing under our power is our attitude and how we react to other people, events, and circumstances.

Well, my family thinks I’m a nut. I hope that changes. The only thing I can do is work hard and maybe one day my work ethic and commitment will change their opinions.

This old laptop crashes every other time I use it. What can I do to get a new one? In the meantime, maybe I can borrow one, or go to the library, or even write long-hand. It isn’t ideal, but Shakespeare didn’t have a Mac. I can do this.

I know I need quiet time to be productive. Can I stay up later? Get up earlier? Either I need to actively seek quiet time, or I will just have to be happy with a lower level of productivity. At least I am being fruitful with my time.

Be the captain of your own ship; the master of your soul (Invictus). No one is control of your destiny but you, and you have a lot more power than you believe.

Face Your Fears

I owe my friend and mentor Bob Mayer a lot, but the biggest lesson he taught me was to learn to face my fear. Do what is counterintuitive. I know that if I start feeling a flutter in my gut, then I am likely on the right path. The best writing in you lies behind your greatest fears. Think of it this way. Just expect a dragon to be guarding the cavern of treasure. In fact, the bigger the treasure, the bigger the beast standing sentinel.

Courage is not being without fear.

Courage is feeling fear, but then doing it anyway.

Only idiots and sociopaths are devoid of fear. Fear is your friend. Fear is like a water witch guiding you to your greatest reservoirs of creativity and strength. When you feel fear, keep going. Likely you’re onto something. No one ever accomplished anything great staying in the comfort zone.

I hope you guys feel fired up, and that you’re ready to take on 2011. I’ll be here to help you every step of the way. So what are your biggest challenges? Any advice? Suggestions? Do you see fear differently? Do you feel more hopeful? What are your deepest fears? Toss them out there. Sometimes the monster in the closet is only a coat when you turn the light on ;).

Happy writing!

Until next time…

Give yourself the gift of success so you can ROCK 2011. My best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books. Put that gift card you got for Christmas to good use.

Also, I highly recommend the Write It Forward Workshops. Learn all about plotting, how to write great characters, and even how to self-publish successfully…all from the best in the industry. I will be teaching on social media and building a brand in March. For $20 a workshop, you can change your destiny….all from the comfort of home.

 Okay, so I do still have a hard time referring to myself with the words, “expert” or “guru” without giggling. But, some really sweet people have labeled me as such, so we’re going to run with that today. Fridays are free-for-all, the day you will see me as a person. That counts as my disclaimer, by the way.

I love my book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, but I have to confess it was the toughest thing I ever wrote. Why? Because I really didn’t “feel” like an expert. In fact, most of the book represents an accumulation of my failures…ideas that seemed like a good idea, but in practice went BOOM! In fact, I have a deep and profound respect for Wile E. Coyote and if he ever wrote a leadership book, it might look a lot like mine.

But you know what? I used to think that my failures were a weakness. Now? I am not so sure. I don’t know if I trust the leaders who’ve had “charmed” lives. Do I really want to read a wilderness survival manual penned by the dude who did everything right? Or would I prefer to read one by the guy who tells me, “Yeah, those berries might seem like a nice snack, but let me tell you what those little suckers can do!” Do I want to read a book on conquering alcohol addiction written by the Harvard PhD who made straight As or by the guy who crawled out of the gutter, homeless and alone, and has since been sober for 20 years? Does a CEO count as a great leader? Maybe. But if you read the Drunkard’s Walk—How Randomness Rules Our Lives it can change the way you perceive great leaders. Was that CEO or military general that skilled, or did they just happen to be in the right place at the right time for the right confluence of events? Maybe. Maybe not. Makes you think, and put resume’s in perspective.

Failure is a great teacher. I used to think I was a great leader, but then I had a year that I was put to the test…I mean really put to the test. I was elected president of three different organizations and elected to the board of directors for a fourth organization. Yikes! Yeah, you guessed it. I went down in flames. But you know what? I am so grateful for that experience. It has given me some tremendous insights to pass on to others.

I have one of those extroversive, energetic personalities—kind of like Tigger if he drank a case of Red Bull. It doesn’t take long for someone to volunteer me for leadership roles. Why? I am charismatic.

Ahhhh, but herein lies the problem. Charisma and leadership ability are not the same thing (as I would find out during that year of hell). The truth is, had I been as great of a leader as I was in my own mind, I would have managed just fine. But I wasn’t, and I soon got into deep, deep trouble. Great leaders delegate. I learned that. I now delegate. Great leaders keep people accountable. Much better at that too. Great leaders make people feel valued by allowing them to contribute their talents. Much, much better at that. Great leaders are good listeners. Getting there. Great leaders know how to say “no.” Still working on that :D.

The interesting point of this is that, the year I was elected to all of those positions, I had a pretty outstanding resume. Heck, I even impressed myself. Yet, when the test of fire came, I crumbled. And don’t get me wrong, my critique group survived and Rotary is still there…but I was forever changed.

My brother is now president of my Rotary club and doing an amazing job. But the weird thing is that I give much better advice as a failure than I ever could have when I was a “success.” One of my favorite books of all time is called Failing Forward by John Maxwell. Our society places so much value on success, but what about failure? How many neuroses, addictions and devastated relationships are created by us buying into the lie that we must be perfect? We walk around with armor afraid to be human and, to me that is sad.

Perfection is the measure of gods and angels, but humans I believe are better measured by their failures. How did they take them? What did they do with them? How did they use that failure to change their lives and better the lives of others?

My favorite poem when I was a kid, was How did You Die? By Edmund Vance Cook

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way

With a resolute heart and cheerful?

Or hide your face from the light of day

With a craven soul and fearful?


Oh, a trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce,

Or a trouble is what you make it.

And it isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts,

But only how did you take it?


You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what’s that?

Come up with a smiling face.

It’s nothing against you to fall down flat,

But to lie there — that’s disgrace.


The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce;

Be proud of your blackened eye!

It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts;

It’s how did you fight and why?


And though you be done to death, what then?

If you battled the best you could;

If you played your part in the world of men,

Why, the Critic will call it good.


Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,

And whether he’s slow or spry,

It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,

But only, how did you die?

So, at the end of the day, I smile when great people like Tawna Fenske call me a guru. It feels wonderful to get letters and e-mails from people my book has helped. And I have to be careful when awesome people like talented Jody Hedlund or brilliant Candace Havens call me an expert because I could get a terrible cramp patting myself on the back. Yet, unlike ol’ Wile E. Coyote, I think I am more wary of packages marked ACME, or in my case EGO.

I like to believe that I am good at what I do, and I sure appreciate all of you who stop by to read these blogs. But I know that the best of what I have to offer all of you, whether it is about writing or social media or leadership or life in general very often came from failure. I like to believe that I am quicker to learn from error than Wile E., but we are kindred spirits in that we don’t look back at what blew up in our face—we dust off and try again and again and again undaunted.

It takes no great effort or test of character for us to criticize others. But to take an honest look inside, acknowledge our shortcomings and then be humble enough to learn and change? Why THAT is progress :D. Thus, if this “guru” has anything to offer it is that failure hurts. No one likes to brag about where she fell short. Nobody likes to list on the resume all their misjudgments, missteps, or mishaps. Yet, these “failures” are our greatest teachers and some of our most precious possessions. At the end of the day, failure is what we make it. Is it a headstone or a stepping stone? The choice is ours.

Happy writing!

Until next time…


One more mark of a great leader? Be an edifier! Acknowledge those who have contributed. So here is the mash-up!

Everett Marroon wrote a great blog about why writers need community. Darn skippy! We are already weird to start with. Too much alone time is bad juju.

Author Jennifer Holbrook has an interesting perspective on the topic of critique groups. What’s the best kind?

I follow Writer’s Digest Editor Jane Friedman, namely because she makes a mash-up simple by offering great material. She has an interesting blog that offers tips for writing about your life.

Publisher’s Weekly had an interesting blog about e-books. 35 million downloaded so far. Wow!

This blog I found when searching for a guru pic. It was so funny I had to include it in the mash-up. 5 Internet Marketing Buzz Words That Are Annoying as Hell. Yes, “guru” was among them. Shocking!

Have a great weekend. See y’all on Monday.