I am going to share a recent story of one of my own failures. And I'm going to use that as an example of how we can leverage failure for future success. As coaches, this is something that we can support our clients in doing as well. And again, it is entirely understandable that our clients will want to avoid failure. In fact, many of our clients are working with us, because they don't want to fail, maybe they have failed in the past, maybe things have not worked out as well as they would have hoped. And they're working with a coach in order to experience greater success in less time, and hopefully with more fun. So I understand that it may seem a little counterintuitive, then to talk about why we need to help our clients learn to fail. But the fact of the matter is, failure is a part of life. It is not something that we can avoid. It's not something that we can hack our way through. To be honest, failure is a given. It's a constant, it's going to happen. So perhaps then when we're working with our clients, we can come from the perspective of not trying to get rid of or eliminate failure, but instead deciding how we want to navigate through it. And then as coaches we can explore how our language, our offers, our programs can help our clients leverage their own failure for success.
So let's start off with a story. I want to share with you something that happened to me just last week, as an example of how I failed and how I am still in the process of allowing that failure to lead me to a greater success. So about a month ago on the podcast, I think it was the episode where I was talking about whether or not you need to create a new offer in your business. And if you haven't checked out that episode, it's episode 120. Definitely go back in the archives and find it, it's well worth a listen. But one of the things I mentioned in that episode is that I had been pouring most of my creative energy into my business for the last six years. And I've really enjoyed that I love that my business is an opportunity for me to express myself creatively. And I also recognized that I was neglecting to foster other areas of my life that could be enhanced with a little bit of creative energy. So I made the decision that instead of creating yet another new offer in my business, I was going to channel that creative energy into something that I have not done for 22 years. I enrolled in a playwriting course. Now, when I was in college, I wrote a one act play as part of my theater major. I really enjoyed the act of writing, and even more, so I loved seeing my creation come to life on the stage before me. It was really one of the most rewarding moments of my college experience. And when I think back about highlights in my life, that is definitely up there. It's – I just can't even put into words what it's like to see something that existed only in your mind's eye, come to fruition in front of you. It was such a powerful experience. And yet, after that one act play, I moved away from playwriting, I continued to write and certainly in my business, I do a lot of writing. I've written a book, Act On Your Business, which if you haven't checked out, you can do that. It's on Amazon, in Kindle and paperback form. But really, most of my writing was business oriented for the last two decades. So I decided I was going to dip my feet back into the world of theater through playwriting. So I enrolled in an online playwriting class. And during the first session, it was a lot of introductions, getting to know each other, the teacher who was amazing, was sharing a lot about dramaturgy, and analyzing plays and how that can inform our own playwriting and so forth. And then we started to share our concept for either a play we were already working on, or one that we wanted to create during the course. Now, I haven't written for over 20 years so this was a new concept for me. And it was a concept that I thought would be really fun to explore. In fact, my instructor thought it had legs. So I was really excited to sit down and write the first scene, and submit my pages for critique. During our next class. I spent the week working on that first scene. And I was really proud of myself for writing, I thought I had some good dialogue, there were some funny moments. And yet, I also knew that there was something not quite right about it. It was a good start. But I knew that I wasn't quite there yet. So class two rolls around, we've all uploaded our pages to the shared Google Drive folder. And what I love about this class is that each writer essentially casts the characters in that scene with the other writers in the group. So we read it aloud. So we hear the language brought to life. And then there's time for the instructor to provide feedback and critique. And I will say one of the reasons I love my instructor so much is because she's very intuitive and also specific. She knows how to balance praise with constructive feedback. And everything she shares is from the place of wanting to help the writer improve their play. And as I'm listening to all of these other playwrights works being shared, I'm really in awe of the level of talent in the room. And I'm noticing that I'm starting to feel a little small, like I'm in over my head. Like, I'm so rusty and it's been so long since I've done this, and that my pages are nowhere near as good as everyone else's. So I have some of the comparison-itis setting in before my pages are even shared. And then it's my turn to have my pages read. And as they are read aloud, I'm listening and I'm liking the dialogue. I'm liking what I'm hearing, but I'm still having the feeling that something is not quite right. So we read my pages. And then my instructor starts off by saying something really kind about “Ooh, I love the setting you've created. It's really vibrant,” you know, really starting with praise, which I appreciate. And I also suspect she's about to use the sandwich method for providing critique where you start with praise, you sandwich the feedback or criticism in the middle, and then you close with something kind. And sure enough, that's what happened because after she complimented my setting, She then said, “So remind me, you've been doing business writing for a while?” And I was like, “Oh boy, here we go.” And sure enough, I received some very gentle, very informative criticism about character development, who had agency in the scene, what characters weren't necessary. It was all done from a place of wanting to help me grow. But it was clear that my pages were a train wreck. They were, they were terrible. And I noticed in the moment that I was feeling really embarrassed. This was the first time that I had done something like this in decades. I'd put myself out there publicly for criticism, I was receiving it as asked. And I just felt like I was the weakest writer in the room. It was a tremendously uncomfortable position for me to be in. I could feel my cheeks getting hot, I could feel that pit in my stomach, like, “Oh, my God, I just would love nothing more than to just close my laptop and never ever return to this class again.” So I definitely wanted to escape. But there was something else that happened in the moment too. And even in the moment, I thought to myself, there is something really powerful at play right now. I noticed that I was feeling embarrassed and yet I wasn't feeling ashamed. Of course, it's embarrassing when you put something out in public for consumption, and you get critiqued on it in a way that makes you feel like, “Oh, I really messed this up.” But I knew that it wasn't a reflection of who I am as a person. And on some level, I also knew that these eight pages were not a true reflection of who I am as a writer either. So in the moment, I was able to be present with my discomfort. Notice that I was feeling embarrassed and that I wanted to run away. And yet I also knew that this didn't define who I was. And it was a very interesting experience of being fully connected, in the moment, noticing my feelings, and yet also understanding that they didn't define me, and that the product I had created didn't define me either. So all of this was going on, as my instructor was providing very helpful feedback, which I took notes and I wrote it down. And I realized, I think I need to throw away just about everything in the scene, which I did. I spent the next week rewriting the scene. And actually, it's a completely different scene, there's a new character, there are new dynamics, the play, I thought was going to be about one theme, I think it's actually going to be about that theme and then another. It's amazing how when you sit down to write, sometimes, the characters tell you what they want to say, or who they want to connect with. In fact, when I was rewriting the scene, I brought a new character in not really sure of who he was or what his role was. And it wasn't until I was writing the dialogue that I realized, “Oh, my goodness, these two characters, they’re siblings.” I didn't realize they had that relationship until I wrote my way to it. And then once I connected those dots and realized, “Oh, this is a brother/sister rivalry thing,” the entire scene changed and came to life. And it sets up everything that I want to happen next in the play, even though it's not meant to be a family drama, I think there's going to be an element of that to that.
So anyway, I completely rewrite the scene, I drop it in the Google Drive, and I wait for the next class and to receive critique. And I won't lie, I was really, really nervous, like really nervous, I had just completely bombed the week before. And I felt like I was a terrible writer in the eyes of my teacher and of all of my classmates. And the thought of having them read and critique my piece aloud made me incredibly uncomfortable. But I was going to do it anyway. Because one thing I've learned as a therapist, and as a coach is that when we can sit in discomfort, there is always a lesson there. So the way the class actually went, we were only able to read a portion of my script out loud. But my instructor prefaced it by basically saying this rewrite is so good. And even just from the few pages we were able to read, it was clear that the dialogue was more dynamic. The relationships were more defined, it was much more captivating. And I felt like “Okay, I'm back on track. I can do this, and I belong here.” And it was an incredibly validating experience to hear my instructor say, “This is a really good rewrite!” and to get some comments from the other writers in the room in the chat letting me know “Oh, yeah, it's dynamic. I'm really interested about this relationship.” That felt really good. But what felt better was that I knew that I had made a shift in my writing. I knew that the transformation I helped create from that first draft into the next draft was really powerful. And no matter what happens from here on out having that experience of creating what Anne Lamott calls a “shitty first draft”, receiving critique on it, and then using that critique to create something stronger. And to know that I didn't run away from that, that was a powerful experience. So I don't yet have an end to the story. Because I'm still in the course we meet through the rest of the summer, I'm still writing my play, I'm still seeing what the characters have to teach me. But just in this span of one week, between the class where I submitted the terrible pages and the class where I submitted the rewrite, I have learned so much about myself, and how I respond to failure. And so now I want to share my takeaways from that experience with you. And to frame them from a coaching perspective, and how we can take these and use them with our clients and also with ourselves. Because guess what, my friend, as coaches, we are going to fail. We are going to have moments where we ask a question that doesn't land, where we get ahead of our clients and make a suggestion they're not ready for. We will have times where we end a session and we think to ourselves, “I cannot believe my client just paid me for that. I really did not show up as I wanted to.” That's a part of the process, my friend. That's how we grow as coaches.
So let's dive into my takeaways from my experience failing publicly in my writing class, and how we can apply that to our coaching practices. Here's the first lesson, you have to stay in the room. I mentioned that when I was being critiqued on that first draft, I had such a strong desire to leave. I was feeling embarrassed, I was feeling small. And I just wanted to get myself out of there as fast as I could. There was also a part of me that wanted to drop out of the course and never return again, because I was feeling embarrassed. But I made the decision to stay in the room. I stayed and listened to the critique, I opened myself up to it because on some level, I knew it was going to make me a better writer, even though it was hard to hear. And I committed to coming back the next class. Now I'll be honest with you, I didn't commit to coming back to every class. In my head, I still said “If this really doesn't work, Lee, if you give it another try, and it's still terrible, you always can leave. That's always on the table.” But I committed to staying in the room, at least until the next class where I could resubmit my pages. So that's lesson number one, when we are experiencing failure, and everything in us is telling us to run away. Sometimes the answer is to stay in the room. To stay present with our discomfort, to remind ourselves that we are not going to die from being embarrassed. And that if we're open to it, we can grow from it.
Now I feel like a caveat is in order here. One reason I have emphasized the fact that my instructor is caring and kind and giving criticism from a place of wanting to help us grow is because not every teacher or coach or mentor will do that. Some people unfortunately take great delight in shaming their students or their clients or their mentees to the point where it's almost, if not downright abusive. And I want to make it really clear that I am not asking anyone to stay in any sort of situation where they are being emotionally abused or manipulated. That is an entirely different situation. And in that case, it may well serve you and your future success, to get yourself out of that room, to get yourself out of that relationship. But that's not what was happening to me. I was receiving exactly what I needed to hear, even though it made me uncomfortable and embarrassed. And even though my initial inclination was to escape, I knew I had to stay in that room if I was going to get better, and if I was going to learn something. So that is lesson number one, when you are in the midst of experiencing failure, stay in the room. It may feel hard, but it will be worth it.
Now, lesson number two that I derived from that experience is that it is so important to not just stay in the room, but to be present with yourself. So while I was receiving that critique, I was practicing the very tools that I teach my own students and clients. And let me tell you, this is where my years of mindfulness and mindset training really came into play. Because instead of succumbing to the embarrassment, I was simply noticing it. In fact, I used my own scripts that I share with you. I said to myself, “Oh look, I'm feeling embarrassed. Oh look, I'm having the feeling of embarrassment. Oh my goodness, look, my cheeks are getting a little red. And I'm having the feeling that I just want to flee.” So in the moment, I was very much attuned with my own internal experiences. And as we've talked about on the show before, that's what mindset work is all about. It's about how we relate to our internal experiences, our thoughts, our emotions, our sensations, our memories, that is at the heart of mindset work. And when we can show up in the moment and be present with and for it, that is mindfulness in action. Now, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that it was a wholly pleasant experience. It wasn't. Who likes to willingly feel uncomfortable feelings? I don't know many people, and it doesn't feel good to feel embarrassed, or sad or angry. Or I'll let you fill in the blank with whatever unwanted emotion comes to your mind. That is not a fun experience to sit with that. And it is often a necessary experience so that we can navigate our way through the moment.
So these two lessons one and two kind of go together. Number one, you have to stay in the room. And number two, you have to be present for what is happening, not just environmentally, but maybe even more importantly, what's happening internally. What I found is that when I consciously noticed the thoughts and emotions I was having in the moment, I wasn't overwhelmed by them, I could manage the discomfort, because I was coming from a place of curiosity. It didn't erase those emotions, mind you, they were still very much present. But it did help me navigate them.
And that takes me to my third lesson from this experience. We all deserve time to feel our emotions. When the class ended and I hit disconnect on the Zoom call, I just sat there for a while. I gave myself time to feel all my feelings. And I'll be honest with you, they didn't go away when I went to bed that night. In fact, I woke up the next morning, and I still had that residual embarrassment. It reminded me of what Brené calls “the vulnerability hangover.” Because I had been really vulnerable the day before. I had shared something I created in front of a group of people. I got justifiably critiqued for it and I was feeling a little hungover by the experience. I also knew that I was not in the frame of mind to make any sort of decisions while I was still processing those feelings. Those decisions could be: Do I stay in the class or do I leave? Do I rewrite the entire scene or find some kernel in there to keep? Do I go to an entirely different concept for a play? I knew that when I was still actively feeling those emotions, I was not going to have the clarity of thought I needed to make decisions. So that was lesson three for me, was I really needed to give myself time to feel and process those emotions, before I made any sort of decisions moving forward. Now, this is a big one for coaches to really lean into. Because oftentimes, our clients may come to session, and they will be emotionally activated by something that's happened to them. And they may need some time at the beginning of session, to vent or to process those emotions. And as coaches, we can create that container in which they can express their feelings and sit with them and notice them. And yet I know many coaches feel like if they spend too long in that state with their client, if they don't get to action, then they have somehow failed their client. And I just want to pause and reflect on that. Because yes, as coaches, we do more than just provide space for our clients to process their emotions. And we do want to make sure that our sessions are dynamic. That we are supporting our clients in achieving their goals and in bringing their vision to life. And sometimes we need a session or two, that is really about helping our client come back to baseline. Giving our client an opportunity to really work through whatever uncomfortable emotions or thoughts they're having about a given experience. And if we try to rush through that process in order to help them achieve a predetermined goal, then I think we're really doing our clients a disservice.
As coaches, we do need to find the balance between affording the action and helping our clients move forward towards their goal, while not bypassing their emotional experience. And that is a tricky balance. And it's one that we as coaches may not always get right. We may experience our own failures around that. And yet, if and when that happens, if we can approach that situation as an opportunity to learn and to grow from it, then our clients will be better served as a result, and we will be better coaches for it. That's why my third takeaway is, it's important to give enough time to really feel the emotions and to not rush into action or decisions when we're still in an emotionally activated state. And as coaches, sometimes the best thing we can do for our clients is to slow things down, and not rush them into a state of action, or not unintentionally collude with the client, who may also want to rush into action as a way of avoiding those feelings. When we slow the pace down. When we allow our clients to be present with those uncomfortable unwanted emotions. That can often be the gateway to catharsis. And then after that catharsis and after the client has had enough time to process that experience, then they will be in a better position to take action.
That brings me to the fourth lesson. So we have stayed in the room, we've been present with ourselves, we've given ourselves time to feel our emotions. And then the next piece is to decide what to keep and what to release. Now, in my case that had to do with the feedback I received, what of this feedback is salient? What do I want to take with me and incorporate into my rewrites? And what do I want to release? What doesn't feel right or what might not serve me moving forward? So this is the point at which we can start to make decisions about how we want to integrate the knowledge and wisdom we've gained from this failed experience. Now, in a very literal sense, I decided it meant keeping two of the characters from the original draft and getting rid of two characters, it meant adding a new character in. And it also meant ensuring that I was clear about who the protagonist was, and that she had a sense of agency and action in the scene. Because that was not the case in the first scene that I wrote. So in a very literal sense, I was keeping certain characters, getting rid of some, keeping certain plot points, even keeping a few lines of dialogue, though, honestly, most of the scene was entirely rewritten. But I had to make a conscious decision about what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to let go. I also did that from more of a metaphorical perspective. At some point, I had to decide if I was willing to release my embarrassment, and to put myself out there to be vulnerable, again, to share my written work for critique. I didn't have to do that. As I mentioned before, I could have decided not to return to the class, that's always a choice. But I knew that I didn't want to just default into “Well, I signed up for the class. So I guess I'll go.” No, I wanted it to be an active decision. It was an act of willingness on my part, to say “Yes, I am going to return. I am going to do this. I am open to this experience, and I am willing to learn from it.” And when I did that, I realized that not only was I releasing embarrassment and unwanted emotions, I was embracing the concept of the beginner's mind. I was choosing to come into this and future experiences in this class, with that beginner's mind. Of embracing this idea that I'm a novice, I'm learning. I'm going to have failures, I'm going to make mistakes, and they're going to make me a better playwright for it. I found that when I stepped into this beginner's mind approach, the embarrassment went away. Because as a beginner, how can I be expected to get things right on the first go? I'm not going to have a perfect scene with perfectly developed characters, because I'm just starting out. And truly, after 22 years away from playwriting, I really am a beginner again. So when I give myself permission to be a beginner, instead of feeling like I have to perform for others with perfect pages, it's really liberating. And I actually had more fun writing that next scene from that beginner's mind perspective than I did before. That's why the fourth lesson here is to decide what you want to keep and what you want to release from that experience. And in most cases, embracing the beginner's mind is going to be such a helpful perspective in making those decisions. And then finally, once you've made those decisions, then you can take action on them, then you can decide what do I want to do differently next time? What might I want to do the same? What factors can I change that may make it so that the outcome is a more successful one next time? This is where we actively turn that previous failure into a success when we take action based on all of the work that we've already done staying in the room, being present, feeling our emotions, deciding what to keep and what to release. Once we've done all of those things, then it's time to make some modifications and take action so that we can get back on the path to success.
So my friends, that is my take on how to fail successfully. And I hope that by doing a deep dive into my own recent failure around my playwriting class, it's been helpful to see how we can convert a failure into a success. And while admittedly, turning in eight pages of a really crappy scene of a play, may be a small scale failure. In the moment, I assure you, it felt huge. And I think we can still take the lessons from that and apply them to larger scale failures. And believe me, I've had my fair share of those as well. I have had program launches that didn't go, I've had programs not meet the minimum number of people required in order to go forward, I've had to cancel and issue refunds, I have definitely had my fair share of failures inside my business. And I don't know a single coach or online business owner who hasn't. And if they're not admitting to their failures, then I really question their authenticity, and their transparency. We all have this happen to us. So let's normalize it. And let's talk about how we can navigate our way through failure in order to give birth to future success. And with that, I think it's time for this week's Clarity in Action moment.
Well, my friend, I have to admit this week's Clarity in Action moment is a little tricky. Because I don't necessarily want to ask you to go out there and fail at something so that you can put these steps into practice. We don't need to manufacture failure, that's for sure. So what I invite you to do is think about a time where things did not go as you wanted them, on some level you would define it as a failure. And I want you to think about how you responded to that failure, both in the moment, and in the hours and days that followed it. Were you able to stay in the room? Were you able to be present with yourself and notice your internal experiences? Did you give yourself adequate time to really sit with those thoughts and emotions before rushing into action? Did you consciously and intentionally decide what about the experience you wanted to keep and what you wanted to release? And then did you allow that to inform your next steps? These are the basic steps of how we can navigate any sort of failure or unwanted outcome. And understanding that the timeframe it takes to navigate those steps will be different based on the intensity, even the severity of the failure. But I hope that you find this to be a helpful framework to get you started.
Alright, my friend, I'm not gonna lie, I'm probably going to have a vulnerability hangover from this episode, too. It's never easy to talk about our failures, no matter how big or small they are. But one thing I know is that listeners of the Coach with Clarity Podcast, including you, are generous, thoughtful, kind, people who know how to create space when someone is sharing a difficult or uncomfortable story. And so even though I might have a bit of a vulnerability hangover, I also know that I can trust you with this story. And I hope that you feel the same way of me. And if there's anything that I can do to support you in your journey, that you'll reach out, because that's what I do as a coach. It's why I love this work so much. And if you're feeling called to work with your own coach moving forward, I would love to connect with you and explore whether we might be a good fit for each other. I do have two spaces available for private coaching clients coming up for the third into the fourth quarter. So if you get a sense that we might work well together, let's find out, go ahead and send me an email. It's email@example.com and we'll get time on the calendar to connect and explore what it might be like to work together. So again, send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and I can't wait to connect with you. We can also connect over on TikTok or Instagram, I'm @CoachWithClarity. And of course, we'll definitely connect on next week's episode of the Coach with Clarity Podcast. It's going to be a good one and I hope you'll tune in. Be sure to follow or subscribe to the show if you haven't already so that you don't miss it. And until then, my name is Lee Chaix McDonough, reminding you to get out there and show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.