I Am A Loser

There are three ways to tell this story:

1.  Although after winning a commanding 43% in the final round of The Washington Post’s @Work Advice Contest, they chose someone younger with consistently fewer votes.

2.  I don’t care that I didn’t win The Washington Post’s @Work Advice Contest because I really don’t have time for it anyway.

3.  I gave The Washington Post’s @Work Advice Contest my best shot – I wrote like Monet painted – but the judges preferred Van Gogh.  And that is OK.

See, there are always many ways to tell a story.  And I told all of those versions of my story in the first 24 hours after I found out that, despite having the vast majority of the final vote, I didn’t win.

It was hard.

It really hurt.

Because I had put myself out there, and told all of you that I really wanted the job.

And I worked hard.

And I put other things aside to focus on the contest.

And I fell short.

Then I got a grip, and thought of all the clients over the years who have been final candidates in some executive search and haven’t been offered the position.  What do I advise them?

Honor the full sweep of your emotions. Because there are no “wrong” emotions.  There are just emotions.

So, heeding my own advice, I was – by turns – angry, sad, self-chastising, denying, accepting.

No pretending.  Just whatever it was, as it was.

And, after all of that emotion, I settled into this thought:  Close, baby, but no cigar.

But the damn cigar is completely within reach.

The cigar that’s coming next for me may just be a different brand, and aroma, and size than I expected. And I will welcome it.

You all know that I believe we each have 100 units of energy to spend each day.  Yesterday’s are gone, and tomorrow’s belong to tomorrow – so how I spend my 100 today is vital.  And totally up to me.

I know that in order to achieve anything, I must use my energy to support my greatest priorities:

Being a good enough parent.

Doing work that makes a difference, and that I am proud of.

Caring for my emotional, spiritual, physical and financial health.

Truth is, I would have loved writing for The Washington Post.  But not writing for The Washington Post offers me the opportunity to put more energy units on my true, real priorities.

Plus, there are gifts for me in not getting what I wanted.

(Which is something I often suggest clients look at – and after they throw something at me, they usually find the gifts inherent in any difficult situation.)

For me, the gifts were multiple:

I tested my writing skills and found them strong, coherent, and well-received.

I connected with people who love my work.

I found new people who love my work.

I enlarged my comfort zone.

I felt tremendous gratitude for an ocean of support from people all around the world.

So, I am a loser.  No doubt about that.

How do I know?  Because I did not win.

But, I am a happy loser who feels like she got the best possible part of the whole deal.

See, in losing I found more of myself.

And that’s a win, sugar. A big, honking, bona fide win.


It’s Hard (At The Beginning)

Sometimes we don’t even want to start.  Because we know it will be hard.

Maybe too hard.

Maybe we’ll fail.

So we don’t start.

At all.

We live in perpetual waiting – waiting for the time that doing the thing won’t be hard at all.

Sometimes that’s a long time to wait. Feels like forever.

Forever is a long time. But now is right here.

So, take a deep breath. Let’s acknowledge that it can be hard at the beginning.

But then it gets easier.

Like when you took your first wobbly walk.  What if your parents said, “Now, walking is hard. You can fall and hurt yourself. Why don’t you wait until you can do it flawlessly?”

But they didn’t say that, did they?  They applauded your every step, and probably snapped your picture a time or two. And called Grandma to crow about you and your success.

You smiled your drooly smile and kept going.

And at some point, you could run.

And it wasn’t hard.

It was fun.

That’s still the promise.

Keep going.  Even when it’s hard.  You’re learning, you’re figuring it out.

And, soon, you’ll be running, effortlessly.


Failure, and What I Did About It


Guess what? I’m a winner. That’s right, a winner. Who has just canceled her fall book tour. Yep, the tour you all have been hearing so much about. And this winner is telling the whole world the honest truth – that she canceled the fall book tour because not enough people signed up.

A real winner, huh?

But according to writer Seth Godin, “Extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny majority with the guts to quit early and refocus their efforts on something new.”

Phew. That’s a relief.

Bet you’ve been here, too. Maybe in a different way, but I’ll bet you’ve had a moment or two where you’ve had to ask yourself the question: Do I quit? Do I stick? What will people think?

I worried about that, too. I fretted: “If I can’t fill my book tour workshops, people will be surprised, they’ll think less of me and won’t hire me as a coach. I’ll be a loser.

But I am absolutely certain that there’s something to learn for me here in Failure Land, and maybe there’s something here for you, too. That’s why I’m not hiding the book tour cancellation, and why I’m not taking to my bed for three weeks with a case of Godiva.

I’ve been constructing events since I was a class officer in high school. I’ve done events for the President of the United States. My largest event? Over 250,000 people on the National Mall in DC. I know events. But I made some stupid mistakes organizing the book tour:

  1. A book called I Am Not Superwoman is going to attract women (duh) age 35-55 who have kids. And I selected the first couple weeks of the school year to launch my tour.  The busiest time of the year.  What was I thinking?
  2. I chose a Saturday in Knoxville, Tennessee.  A football Saturday.  A home-game football Saturday.  In Tennessee.  Do I know nothing about the South?
  3. I priced the event based on comparable events friends have held around the country.  Not taking the recession into account.  Or the way credit has dried up.  Or how people are now saving.  Or the difficulties of the entrenched unemployed.  I was planning as if it’s still 2007. And it’s not.
  4. I called the book I Am Not Superwoman, which is catchy but is a hard sell to my guy clients and readers.  And there’s a bunch of you guy clients and readers.  I could have used a broader title to broaden the community who supports it.

And here’s the Magilla Gorilla of my mistakes:

I paid too much attention to people who told me I really “should” do a book tour to support this book.

And I knew better. This book didn’t really call for a tour. I really knew that, deep down.

Oh, the book is good.  Plenty of people have written about it here, here, here and here.  It’s a fast read, with plenty of useful, thoughtful ideas and tips.  I think you’ll like it if you haven’t picked up a copy yet.

But what I do every day is coach men and women executives to more fulfilling work.  And while the concept of Superwoman may tangentially fit, it’s not a perfect fit.

By giving too much weight to what others said I “should” do, I believe I confused you all.

But now, I want to encourage you.

You’re going to make mistakes.  You’re going to fail.  We all do.  As someone once said to me, “It’s not how you fall – everyone is going to fall – it’s how you bounce that matters.”

I’m telling you, publicly, about my mistakes to give you the space to take a look at your own.  Mistakes are not the end of the world, you know.  What you do is this:  you learn from your mistakes.  You take the gift that each mistake offers – because just like a Tootsie Roll Pop, there’s chewy goodness inside every failure – and you make next time better.

I’m re-focusing my work now on lower cost offerings, and free stuff, and other ways to support this book and my other work. Rather than being mired in my mistakes, I’m correcting myself and planning for the future.

Hey, it’s how you bounce.

Ya Gotta Wanna

Considering making some changes here at the end of one year and the start of a brand spanking new one? Gonna lose weight? Stick to your budget? Change jobs? Travel to Bali? Find yourself that elusive soul mate?

Sure every year you make resolutions; but this year, by golly, you’re really gonna do it.

Well, all I’m gonna say is, “Ya gotta wanna.”

How many times have you found yourself in late December writing down the New Year’s Resolution to Get Into Better Shape, and by February you find yourself couch potato sluggish — not going to the gym you paid for, or even using those getting-dusty weights in the back of the closet?

My guess? You didn’t really wanna get into shape.

Because if you did really wanna, you woulda.

The sneaky sabotage comes into play when we say one thing yet do another. We say we want to pay off our credit card debt yet we continually splurge on something we “deserve”, or that makes us “feel better”. Result? We end the year with two additional credit cards, and everything maxed out.

And we feel like a failure.

Which is, of course, why we didn’t pay off the credit card in the first place.

When you feel like a failure, you create opportunities to remind yourself that you are, indeed, a failure. What does a failure do? Why, fail! So, you fail to pay your bills on time — and the nastygrams from your creditors reinforce your idea about yourself… that you’re a loser. You fail to eat healthy food and moderately exercise, and what happens? Why, you gain weight, lose muscle tone and feel… bleah. But isn’t that how a failure is supposed to feel?

To turn this around, there is only one thing you can do. And you gotta wanna. You gotta wanna move from failure to success. Really, really wanna. Ready?

Take out a piece of paper. Oh, and a pen. Or pencil. Or fat crayon. Something handy. OK. List the following categories and leave enough space between them to write four or five things under each. The categories are: Career; Money; Health; Physical Environment (your living conditions); Family/Friends; Significant Other/Romance; Personal Growth (continuing education, spiritual growth, etc.); and, Fun & Recreation.

Focus on what you did, rather than what you didn’t. That’s a switch, huh?

When you’re finished, look at your list of accomplishments for the year. Any patterns? Anything interesting? What’s that tell you about your year?

This was a tough year for a client of mine, Susan. A year ago, she lost her senior executive position due to an industry shake-up. Then both parents got ill, and she became their legal custodian. She arranged for their care, took responsibility for finances, coordinated with the extended family. A full-time job — while she was looking for a full-time job. In the last three months, her father died and her sister unexpectedly died — and her mother remains ill.


In the last year, she rekindled friendships. She moved to her dream city. She put lovely things into her new home. She made smart financial decisions. She exercised. She traveled. She continued to expand her professional network. She sought support when she needed it. She took care of herself.

Although Susan might say, “2007 was a lost year”, her list would indicate that she actually made some important steps. Sure, she did what she had to. But the things she really, really wanted to do? She got those done, too.

When you shift your thoughts from “look at what a mess I am” to “look at what I’ve done”, you shift your perspective from perpetual loser to resilient achiever. Even if your achievements are small, they are still yours.

“Michele”, you say.”What’s the point? I only made accomplishments in areas that really don’t matter. I still don’t have (a partner, a great job, a million dollars).” I, in my most wise Yoda-like way will ask, “Why are you afraid of leaving Loserville and moving into Successville? What’s keeping you from claiming all of your power and accomplishments? What benefit do you get from believing that what you do doesn’t matter?”

Getting rid of your negative beliefs about yourself is the key to making progress on any New Year’s resolutions you may make. Shifting from a sense of limitation and lack to an awareness of opportunities and abundance completely changes your life. Things become more effortless, you become happier. Believe me, it can be done and you can get there.

But ya really gotta wanna.