Embracing Failures

image cake baked


My son requested a homemade birthday cake for his celebration this year. He wanted his special treat to be a yellow cake with chocolate frosting made by me. This request might not be a difficult one to most people— but to me, it was huge. I don’t enjoy baking. Frankly, it’s hard for me to understand why I should spend time baking a cake when I could be doing so many other interesting things.


It really isn’t that hard to follow a recipe on a box of cake mix. In spite of this, I managed to mix all the ingredients without including the needed water. This dawned on me when I went to pour the batter into the pans and the batter wouldn’t budge. Apparently, water is an essential ingredient in this recipe. I put the batter back in the bowl and added the water.


Thirty minutes later, I took a look in the oven and decided that the golden-brown cake layers were ready to take out and cool. I left to do a quick errand and figured I would ice the cake upon my return. With the cake cooled, I turned the pan over to release it. Nothing happened. I ran a knife around the edge and hit the bottom of the pan— still nothing happened. I tried the other pan with the same results. After much work, the cake came out in pieces.


Refusing to feel discouraged, I began to problem solve. Being my optimistic self, I decided to piece it back together with the frosting. My brilliant solution didn’t work. That’s just about the time when my husband walked in and stared at my masterpiece. I could tell it was hard for him to keep a straight face.


Now, if you’re wondering if it was as bad as I’m making it out to be, take a look at the included picture of my cake. It was truly, truly bad and my attempt to bake this birthday cake was an epic fail.


I should be good at this type of thing. I should be able to bake a cake for my son. I should be talented enough to follow an easy box cake recipe. All of the “shoulds” flowed through my mind as I stared at my cake. All the “shoulds” just made me feel worse about the situation.


Like you, I enjoy succeeding in life. I have high expectations and I work daily to develop my talents. This experience didn’t fit in with my view of self. This experience made me feel really bad. I searched for the reason that I failed so miserably.


And then, I began to think about the situation objectively. It’s hard to go through life without failing miserably now and then. Bad things will happen— much bigger things than my disastrous cake. Eventually, it will happen in your career, your relationships and every facet of your life, no matter how hard you work. You will give your best effort and still, things will not turn out as you expected. It will be disappointing and disheartening, but where you go from there is what truly matters.


Letting go of the “shoulds” and allowing your self the freedom to mess up now and then is key. Keeping your eye on the horizon instead of over your shoulder is also important.


Accept that the experience of failure is just another part of your life journey. The ability to be resilient and move on after failure is what truly matters.



What’s Your Brand

images kitten in mirror


How well do you protect your brand?  I’m not referring to legalities of branding.  If you’re an entrepreneur, I’m not referring to the marketing needs within your company.


I’m talking about protecting YOU and what you project into the world.  Let’s be honest here. Most days are probably a whirlwind for you.  You have a calendar chock full of daily tasks and activities.  You don’t have time to think about, contemplate or have any introspection about your activities.  You’re just running from commitment to commitment and meeting your daily objectives.  You are focused on getting through the day.


And that’s exactly the problem.  You probably aren’t devoting much thought as to what you give out to the universe daily.  This is due to the fact that you’re focusing on what comes next, getting to your next appointment on time or how you’re going finish the proposal that your prospective client just sent you.


I attended a wonderful event out of town the other night.  There were 700 women that had come together to socialize, network and learn. As I made my way to my assigned seat for dinner, I was surprised to see someone at my table that looked familiar. I walked over and asked her how I knew her.  She also felt that I looked familiar and we realized that we had met in Cincinnati before she had recently moved to a new city. Her answers to my questions were short, terse and not overly friendly.  Frankly, I get excited when I see someone I know while I’m out of town, and I was surprised that she didn’t share in the excitement.


I made my way around the table and met the different women.  They were all friendly and excited to meet me.  While I was deep in conversation with one, I glanced over at my old acquaintance.  The entire table was deep in conversation while she sat there, quietly staring at her phone with a sour look on her face.  Within the next 15 minutes, I observed again to see if her demeanor had changed.  She still sat there, making no attempt to introduce herself and sending a clear message through her non-verbal’s that she wasn’t interested in talking and definitely not happy to be there.


Now, the reason I bring this up is because she was sending me a very clear message— and it wasn’t a good one.  This woman makes her living in a very competitive industry. She made no effort to engage anyone in conversation and convey a positive message.  As for the branding message she was sending?  It was not one that would increase her stock in her industry.


Maybe some of you are thinking that she was having a bad day.  Yes, there are days where you’re preoccupied with issues or problems and you find it difficult to make an effort in public.  However, when you represent your brand, you can’t afford to have this happen.  When you’re feeling like this, you have two choices: You can either have a talk with yourself and commit to putting your best foot forward or you can come to the conclusion that you’re better off staying home.


The problem with this woman’s behavior is the following: I immediately assume that this is who she is ALL the time. It’s very possible that this is the furthest thing from the truth.  She could have been holding on by a thread and having an absolutely rotten day.  However, I sized her up through her actions in this one experience. People make judgments of others within the first few seconds of meeting them. I’m not saying that this is right, but it is a reality of human behavior.


The bottom line is that when you’re in a business where there’s massive competition, you just can’t afford this type of branding. In fact, no matter who you are or what you do, you can’t afford this type of branding. Maybe it’s time for you to reassess the message you are sending the world and ensure that it truly defines YOU.



Purpose and Passion

I had a business meeting with a new contact the other day. As we chatted, the conversation turned to my involvement in 85 Broads. For those of you not familiar with the group, 85 Broads is a network of women professionals that support and empower each other to achieve their goals. I have recently taken on the role of President in the organization.


With pride, I shared some of the social and philanthropic events we’ve organized in the past year. I explained how women prefer to get to know one another before doing business together.  After I was done giving a general overview of the organization and my involvement, he looked at me confused and asked the question that left me speechless—


“But what’s in it for you as President— why do you do this?”

Honestly, I didn’t even know how to answer that. I had just spent a good five minutes explaining the wonderful assets of the organization and the many things we had accomplished as a team. I stared at him with a confused look on my face. I had to take my time to formulate my response.


The remainder of the day, I mulled over the interaction. It eventually occurred to me that maybe he didn’t understand what it feels like to be motivated with purpose and passion. Yes, I thought, he was referring to being monetarily compensated. He had listened to my whole passionate explanation of the organization and still didn’t understand how I could pour so much of myself into a position that didn’t monetarily reward me.


My purpose in my life is clear to anyone that knows me.  I passionately coach women to achieve their goals and go after their dreams.  I encourage them to live their life true to who they are. I support them to make changes and push forward to go after what they want.  My strengths are seen daily in my work: my ability to influence, support and empower others to achieve the impossible. When I’m working within my own strengths, I feel strong and empowered. In other words, I feel that I’m the best version of me.


Being President of 85 Broads gives me the opportunity to positively impact the lives of women in our community and beyond. It enables me to expand my work in life beyond my own business.  It gives back in ways that can’t even be explained.


Recently, I was walking around the side of the house and noticed where I had placed some dead hanging plants.  There, among the dead, ugly brown leaves was one beautiful flower. I stopped what I was doing to marvel at the plant.  How did that happen?  How did that one flower survive in such dry, poor conditions?  To me, that experience had meaning.


When you’re living your life with purpose and passion, every day has meaning.  You are crystal clear on your goals and what’s important to you in life.  You meet each day with enthusiasm for the work ahead. That’s not to say that there aren’t bad days. Eventually, bad things happen and you’re met with some disappointments and unhappiness.  However, when you’re living your life with clarity on your purpose, you’re able to bounce back much faster.  You thrive even in the poorest of conditions and can dig down deep to find the strength to persevere.  Just like that beautiful pink flower.


Apparently, I’ve found what nurtures me to grow in a dry bed of weeds. I hope my new friend discovers the same someday.


Letting Go of Baggage

Years ago, I worked at an organization with a good friend.  Throughout the relationship, I had always been supportive of her family and her career. Since my company had identified her to move up in the organization, my boss included her in a meeting to discuss my yearly review.  I didn’t see this as any threat and had no problem with the decision to include her.  Frankly, no one knew my work better.


However, I hadn’t been in the meeting for even five minutes before I began to sense a shift in her behavior.  When the supervisor made some false accusations toward me, my eyes immediately searched my friend. I expected her support— what I got was more accusations. The two became a tag team of attack while I was left confused, hurt and angry.  All I kept thinking in my head was, “what the heck is happening here”.


Being attacked by my supervisor was disappointing and confusing, but being attacked by my friend was just devastating for me.  I walked out dazed, hurt and angry.  I couldn’t imagine why someone I thought I knew so well would act so out of character.


I’m sure each one of you has been in this same place.  Someone lets you down and hurts you so deeply that you have difficulty dealing with the emotions and letting go of the anger.  Some of you might still be carrying around baggage from years ago.  If so, heed my tips for forgiving and moving on in life.


Identify the feelings and loss in your life

When my incident occurred, I had difficulty articulating my feelings.  I knew I was hurt and angry, but I couldn’t make sense past that thought. As time went on, it became clearer to me what I had lost and why the situation had been so painful.  It was helpful for me to put these thoughts down on paper and talk to close friends about the situation.


Allow yourself time to grieve

This is an important time in the process of forgiveness. Many women feel uncomfortable expressing negative emotions. During this time, allow yourself the opportunity to feel any emotions that seem natural for the situation.  Don’t stuff the emotions down because this will only make it difficult to complete the process of forgiveness.


Try to see the situation outside your own pain

Easier said than done right?  When you’re angry and in pain, you have difficulty seeing anything but what’s happening to you. However, when you get to the point where you can envision what that other person is actually feeling, you will move closer to finding the path to forgiveness.


Look for what the situation has taught you in life

No matter how bad the situation, there’s always a lesson somewhere. What have you learned from the experience? What did you not realize until the situation occurred?  Find some bit of information that helps you gain perspective in life.


Forgive while not expecting anything in return

When you forgive someone, you let go of the idea of revenge and move on.  It doesn’t mean you put yourself in a position that allows that individual to hurt you again— it just means you’ve made a decision in your heart to forgive them for their actions.  YOU decide that you’re tired of holding on to the anger and hurt and their subsequent affect on your quality of life.  Once you forgive and let go, you get to enjoy healthier relationships, less stress and anxiety and greater psychological well-being.


Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to finally unpack that suitcase and deal with some unfinished business.

Find Your Strengths

When I was in college and working on my undergraduate degree, each day was like swimming upstream. I had a lot of anxiety surrounding my studying and test taking. This anxiety came with good reason— I wasn’t very good at it.  The information went in my brain and then quickly left.  When I finally did take a test, I often felt that the questions on the test looked foreign compared to the information I had pored over for hours.


If a good portion of it was essay, I would be relieved and my anxiety would decrease considerably.  I knew that I could somehow articulate to the professor my level of knowledge on the subject. I didn’t realize until later why this was so much easier for me. One of my strengths was communication (Imagine that). For many years, I viewed these weaknesses in my learning as deficits in my intellect.  I actually bought into the myth that I simply wasn’t as smart as other people. I also bought into the idea that if only I tried hard enough, I could turn my weaknesses into strengths.


This idea that I could improve drastically in my area of weakness was ingrained in me from an early age. There is this notion that if you work hard enough and care enough, you too can become a superstar in any arena. Think about it, when you were going through school, did your parents pay more attention to your A’s, or was the focus on your one C? Did you believe that you weren’t trying hard enough and with the right amount of investment, your C could easily be an A?


Chances are, the course where you received a C for your efforts was not in an area where your natural talent lied.  The truth is that you have the ability to grow the most in the areas of your strengths. When you take your talent and couple that with practiced skills and knowledge, you have the recipe for off the chart success. Therefore, it makes more sense to invest your energy into areas where you can show the most growth, rather than focusing hours and hours on your areas of weakness. On a side note, there are some weak areas where you still need to be somewhat proficient in life. For example, not being strong in math doesn’t mean you can totally ignore your personal finances. You still need basic skills to get by in the world.


Since I have a little bit more knowledge and wisdom than I did when I was 20, I no longer waste my time attempting to become proficient in certain areas that I know aren’t my strengths.  I’m never going to be an excellent painter and you won’t find me scrapbooking anytime soon.  In fact, if you ever saw my artwork, you would chuckle. My skills are low level and I’m fairly certain that my abilities wouldn’t progress too far beyond average.  I’ve made peace with this, and I don’t spend much time thinking about it.


However, I have noticed that my writing gets better and better the more I write.  I continue to perfect my skills in coaching women the more I work with clients. I’ve realized that presenting to groups gets easier and my skills only keep getting better the more I practice.  These are all areas where my abilities soar since I have the natural talent.  These are the areas that make sense for me to invest my time and energy.


So how about you? Do you know your strengths and utilize them on a daily basis?  Do you spend too much time in your professional and personal life focusing on your weak areas instead of the areas where you can truly excel? If so, then you need to rethink your approach to life.  All you have to gain is success and happiness.