A friend of mine wrote a screaming email to me the other day. Lots of caps. You know the type.
WHERE IS THAT THING YOU WROTE ON HOW TO DEAL WITH FAILURE AND SETBACK? I’m having a terrible day, everything I touch goes wrong and I CAN’T FIND THAT ADVICE!
I had to laugh. We’ve all had those days. Nothing goes right and it spoils our mood and puts us in a temper that guarantees even more things go wrong.
She wanted the ‘thing’ I’m about to share with you now. Keep it bookmarked—it might come in handy one day.
I don’t like failing
It makes me feel bad. So I will do everything I can to avoid it. If you think about it, we grow up with the message to get it right, make good grades no matter what, and that failure is definitely NOT a good thing. If you fail too much then watch out, YOU are a failure, a loser. Hang up your spurs kid, you got an F. Don’t do that again.
Maybe instead we should be encouraged to make mistakes, to take risks, fail and learn from it? Wouldn’t this help us all to be more creative? After all, every successful person will tell tales of failure on his or her way to the top, to success, creativity and fulfillment.
I recently came across an interesting take on this subject in a book by Tim Ferriss, called Tools of Titans. Tim is a kind of alternative success guru and he likes to unpack how successful people operate.
In the book Jocko Willink, Retired Navy Seal Commander, was asked how he dealt with failure. His reply—“How do I deal with setbacks, failures, delays, defeat, or other disasters? I actually have a fairly simple way of dealing with all those situations, and that is: “good.”
One word. Easy to remember, unless like my friend, you’re in meltdown.
So, in other words
—Didn’t get that job? Good. Opportunity to look for a better one.
—Got injured? Good. You needed a break.
—Unexpected problems? Good. You have the opportunity to figure out a solution and learn something awesome.
His staff ruefully relay that indeed he does give this response to every situation. And they learned that they may as well say it to themselves first before they go to him with any complaints.
And it worked brilliantly. What Willink was doing was training himself and his staff to approach every situation as a learning experience: to reframe mistakes or failures into a step on the ladder to getting it right. They were a championship team.
Now I know you may be thinking you’d like to deck him one for being so annoying, but he was a Navy Seal, so um, no.
It’s as if Willink is saying—‘It may not be great, or what we would choose, but it’s OK, good. It’s what we’ve got. We’ll make this work.’
Use this in day-to-day living
This works for everyday setbacks, irritants, or failures. Not for big disasters or tragedies. Things like:
You’ve tried something new: it didn’t work. Good. You got feedback. Try something different.
Your electricity just went out. Good. Take a break and do something different.
Your computer broke right when you were in an online business transaction? Good. Maybe it was a bad transaction. Good. Next time you’ll have some backup handy.
You got food poisoning from eating street food? Well, if you’re not dead, good. Go to bed, enjoy your rest and you might lose some weight.
Caught in a traffic jam? Good. A chance to listen to your music.
NB: Obviously it’s not recommended to use it in tragic situations, serious accidents, or death of someone or a pet. Those situations can take longer, sometimes years to see the good side, the silver lining.
A simple change in perspective can work wonders
I’ve started using this and am amazed how well it works to clear the decks and keep my balance when something goes haywire.
It shuts off my negative thinking, the story I’m building about what a bad day it is, and how I’m jinxed on technology, etc.
It’s more just observing what’s going down in a stoical way without judgment and then moving on to see how you can make the best of it.
This simple reframe takes you out of the victim mode. It implies taking action, putting things right, learning from mistakes. This didn’t work? Good. Do something different next time. Suck it up Lollipop and get on with it.
If whatever happens is ‘good’ then what have you got to lose? You’re learning all the time. You’re improving all the time.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone, take some chances, make lots of mistakes and reframe whatever happens as OK. You’ll be amazed how much progress you make in life and work.
It’s these little changes that can make the big differences in how we run our lives.
All my life I’ve heard the axiom, you can’t take it with you. And who can argue? You can’t take your money, your fabulous good looks, your home or your career—all those things you are clinging to so valiantly—with you when you die. So buck up Toots and keep your perspective.
It’s good advice. Don’t get too caught up in the things of this world which are ephemeral and will mean nothing when the end comes. Instead, focus on what matters in life—doing good deeds, love, friendship, and service. All that good stuff.
I always thought I had a handle on that. I certainly am not attached to jewelry or clothes (I buy clothes once a year from Dillard’s in one fell swoop), I’ve been busy de-cluttering my home for several years now, and I have a realistic approach to my career. I’m pretty darn detached from most stuff. I’ve got this, so I thought.
Until my computer died on me while on holiday in India. I woke up one morning and it was gone, not responding to anything, stubborn black screen staring back at me.
Up until then I had been gaily posting on Facebook about my journey, writing blogs, and generally keeping in touch with the world. Suddenly, nothing. (Before you ask, my phone was not set up for internet because I don’t like typing on it.)
So there I was, in an exciting area of India, Rishikesh, where the Beatles famously landed 51 years ago and kicked off an all things Indian/yoga/meditation craze that spread to the West, and wait, and I couldn’t share it with anyone?
The River Ganges was roaring a few feet away from my hotel balcony. Who can I tell?
Does it mean anything to me if I can’t share it? Sounds preposterous, and I’m a tad embarrassed about it, but these emotions of loss and abandonment flowed through me like the river beneath my window.
In a panicky frenzy I did manage to get my email on my husband’s computer, but little else of my entire life. Facebook and Gmail and Dropbox wouldn’t play ball. I forgot all my passwords and they were, guess where, on my computer. Doh!
Facebook was like, Northern India did you say? You want to change your password from there? Oh righty-o, we’re going to fall for that one. Go away. Ditto Gmail and Dropbox, Amazon, Kindle.
Yahoo, promiscuous as ever, let me in immediately—Sure, love, come on in, who needs a password? We believe you.
I went into withdrawal. Like coming off a drug. (So I’ve heard. Does coffee count?) The TV was not in English, my kindle needed replenishing and wouldn’t go online….and boy was this an eye opener about what I cling to!
A few heart wrenching days later, after surviving withdrawal, I began just sitting out on the balcony, doing nothing, watching the river flow. I liked it.
I became more relaxed about stuff that had been bothering me. I didn’t fret if plans had to be changed because of a monsoon spoiling that walk or making us late to some Wonder-of-the-World temple or monument.
I started to let go of a lot of ‘stuff’ that was clogging my life. Did I really need to have YouTube playing in the bathroom as I got ready to go out? No I did not.
I realized my computer had been keeping me from living in the moment.
And guess what? It belatedly dawned on me that I couldn’t take my computer with me when, well you know, that happens. Death, passing over, heading for the light.
I had a humorous moment of fantasizing about what it would be like to take it with me when I die, blogging and posting messages to everyone while it was happening.
“And … Guys, I’m in the tunnel now, yes that tunnel. Bigger than I thought it would be. Hey, you won’t believe who I saw first thing in front of the tunnel! Yes HIM. He’s very nice. It’s all a teensy bit scary but I see the light at the end and everyone has been very helpful and encouraging so far. I’m feeling OK, really, I’m fine, dealing with it. It’s happening! I’ll keep you posted. Later, folks.”
It was actually empowering to lose my computer and discover that my best friend and constant companion was a thing. A thing that breaks. And a false friend. A friend who would not be with me at the end.
I feel oddly liberated to know this.
What about you? Are you attached to something more than is recommendable? Anything you’re addicted to? Will you be OK letting go? And do you realize you can’t take it with you?
Later, folks. That’s all I’m confessing to for now.
Now, if you are looking for a life-coach who is so highly evolved she doesn’t blink when her laptop crashes, then I’m probably not your gal.
However, on the one hand, I’ve been there, done that, and survived!
On the other, who wants to work with someone that evolved?
Contact me for all issues non-computer related and for help getting your life to work. Finding purpose, finding your niche, your voice, creating a new career, surviving transitions. I can help.
Sessions available online or in person in San Miguel. Great Mexican prices too. Check it out here.
I am the world’s greatest procrastinator. And I have an array of tools to assist my expertise.
The Internet is one of my best. A guaranteed sink-hole for goals and plans.
I am forever listening to podcasts, online courses, downloading kindle books galore on all kinds of subjects—all of course relevant to something important I need to be doing. Indeed.
Did I mention YouTube? Another wonderful option for dealing with those ‘I’m not quite sure what to do next’ moments. You. Can. Spend. Hours.
Let’s not talk about email or social media.
I do make attempts to combat it. I can make an amazing list and then lose the list. Every time I start something I immediately feel there was other stuff I should be doing instead. So I stop, look for the list, change course and do something else. Until I remember the other thing that needed doing. Put it on that dang list so I don’t forget.
My head is stuffed full of wonderful ideas that would help a lot of people, generate a fabulous income, and make me a New York Times best selling author….
I could make a difference!… if I would just put them into action.
The problem with this is I waste my day and end up feeling bad about myself. There were things I meant to do, yet somehow didn’t. The time just slipped away. It’s not fun and it’s not satisfying. It’s yuck. I feel out of control.
Then the best time management tool ever, fell into my inbox.
While fooling around I happened upon a bit of advice in one of the many email lists I subscribe to…that actually changed everything. It was a blog by Derek Doepker and it addressed this very problem. Derek (a best selling author, business coach and marketer) said that the best advice he had for managing those days when you can’t seem to focus was this:
Three little words.
Can I just…?
And then fill in the rest of the sentence.
Can I just get hold of that important contact number? Can I just get a title and subject for that script? Can I just spend 5 minutes starting that project that’s looming over me?
An amazingly powerful procrastination blaster. In fact, I don’t just use it for those overwhelm times—I use it every day. Can I just get these 4 things done today?
The idea is that if you can just, or at least, get something done, it’s better than not getting anything done and simply throwing in the towel on your day.
Can I just get X, X, and X done today? The secret of course is you will end up getting lots more done. But if you can at least get this done, your day is not wasted.
These three words will transform your life, I promise. You’ll feel in control, pleased that you’ve accomplished something, and that you’ve earned your Netflix fix at the end of the day.
Derek is now my coach
I was so impressed with this that I engaged Derek to be my coach. He’s amazing. I’m much more focused and not procrastinating nearly as much as I used to.
I got my new book finished by just finishing a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter. Or just looking up a phrase that I wasn’t sure about.
Now. Can I just get this blog finished before lunchtime?
Yes, I believe I can!
Check out my life-coaching—local if you are in San Miguel de Allende, and online if you prefer coaching from your couch, your dog on your lap, sipping your favorite beverage. No video I promise. Margaretnashcoach.com
Here’s my new book, all credit for finishing and publishing to Derek, on kindle at
I’m lazy. I like things to be easy. If you tell me that in order to get healthy I need to go on an anti-inflammatory diet where I have to give up, well, let’s just say, food, I won’t do it. It’s too hard to stop tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, flour, dairy, sugar, pasta, bread, and everything else that makes life worth living all at once.
I will not do it. Not one bit of it—much less the whole shebang.
I balk like a stubborn mule. Do you have a mule?
Mules don’t like overwhelm.
How my Physical Therapist unwittingly used a Japanese strategy to deal with my mule
I recently engaged a Physical Therapist for a repetitive strain injury. Typically I left it until I couldn’t move my thumb at all and was in agony. He helped a lot with the recalcitrant thumb, but it was something else he showed me that you may find interesting.
We discussed a health problem I had had for several years that caused breathlessness and left me exhausted after even the smallest amount of exercise. I was terribly unfit as a result. And mule-like I didn’t like going 3 times a week to the exercise classes my doctor insisted on.
My PT taught me just one thing—how to breathe. I mean really breathe. Big gulping deep breaths for minutes at a time. All day. Whenever I thought about it. He persuaded me to buy a fitness watch that would beep to remind me to breathe.
Breathe. I can do that. It’s pretty cheap and very easy. The Mule in me didn’t notice.
Well, gentle reader; I’m here to tell you it got me off the couch. After a few weeks I had more energy and was using the treadmill for more than 2 minutes before collapsing. I even got in a swimming pool for the first time in 5 years.
All because of breathing? Yes.
One thoughtful change had worked better than all the expert advice from umpteen doctor/chiropractor/acupuncture/massage therapist appointments pooled together. Oh, and kick in a portable oxygen tank that I never used.
What my PT had done for me, albeit unconsciously, was mimic a Japanese system called Kaizen.
A little background here is interesting
Hang in there with me.
In the years following WW2 the Japanese were exhausted and defeated—their economy destroyed by the devastating effects of war. Japan was in dire straits, yet within 30 years bounced back with one of the strongest economies in the world.
American businessmen traveled to Japan to learn their secret and discovered that the Japanese employed a method called Kaizen to get back on their feet. It involved making itty-bitty changes—not big ones. They tackled their huge problems one tiny step at a time, one week at a time. It worked. Spectacularly well.
Kaizen literally means ‘incremental change, continuous improvement’.
Start with the smallest and practice the easiest.
How does this apply to me, I hear you cry?
Simply this. If you make small, seemingly insignificant, but thoughtful adjustments in your life, slowly but surely everything will start to improve.
What about, if instead of those huge monstrous dietary deprivations, you gave up just one thing for that flipping anti-inflammatory diet? Let’s say sugar. Or pop drinks. Or cereal. Just one thing. Won’t kill you.
You can do that. Even I could.
Overly ambitious goals will trigger overwhelm and defeat. They don’t motivate.
Tiny changes will slip under the radar of the mule-mind.
So, let’s look at your goal or challenge
What is the smallest step you can take this week in relation to it? Can you do it for a week?
Treadmill for just 5 minutes a day?
Learn one Spanish verb this week and use it?
Give up sugar in your tea? See if you can stand stevia. Just for a week.
Don’t watch YouTube while you eat breakfast. (Not sure I can do that one. May be too challenging.)
Think tiny. Don’t go big. Think easy. Think small.
Ignore advice to ‘Go big or go home!’ ‘Go all in’, or ‘Make a 100% commitment if you’re serious! 98% is not good enough’. Bad advice.
Instead, go for 50% max. More or less willing to give it a go. What have I got to lose. Why not.
Next time you feel overwhelmed with an issue and all your myriad options, try Kaizen. You’ll be amazed. It’s unimpressive, dull, unspectacular, not at all sexy, but will get you results.
Let me know how you get on. I’m genuinely interested.
My approach to coaching is based on this philosophy. So if you want help getting that mule moving, or more info about Kaizen, contact me by replying to this email.
Easy and effortless beats difficult and challenging every time.
Well here we are, a third of the way into 2019. And already some of those terribly exciting goals I set in the New Year have fallen by the wayside. Seems like just yesterday I was frantically recording them in notebooks. I love doing that. It’s one of my favorite activities and I faithfully set my goals in stone each year.
I do not want to admit how many come to fruition, how many are totally forgotten, nor how many seem to end up on the stone tablet year in, year out without the slightest discernible progress. I don’t think I’m alone here—apparently losing 10lbs, getting more exercise, and learning a foreign language rank high on this perpetual list of non-achievement for many.
Sigh. Put learning Spanish on that one for me. I live in Mexico so this can safely be said to be important, politically correct, and embarrassing not to have accomplished.
For over a decade it has reared its troublesome and challenging head on my lists of Very Important Goals for any given year. And I think I can honestly admit I understand a conversation in Spanish about as well as I did 10 years ago.
This goal needs life support, resuscitation. I had pretty much given up on it.
Until recently. I happened upon a comment about project management that seemed to apply to this area. It was about being realistic with what you’re notwilling to do in any given circumstance where you’re trying to accomplish something. I played around with it, added some steps, got it to work for me and dubbed it the “Let’s Get Real Goal Resuscitation Scheme”.
It’s especially for those annoying goals that stubbornly won’t manifest for some reason. The ones that seem to fizzle somewhere around January 5.
And it’s working! Two months into it, I have actually been complimented on how much my Spanish has improved lately. Please trust me, this has never happened before.
Here it is.
Take a recurring goal that needs life support. Choose your favorite. Fill in the blanks.
State the goal.
I am NOT willing to…..
I AM willing to….
There is a remote possibility I might just, maybe, POSSIBLY be willing to….
So….let’s say it’s learning Spanish. Ahem.
Goal: I want to get better at Spanish, be able to understand conversations, speak and be understood.
I’m NOT willing to:….go to any more classes, employ a tutor (shoot me first), spend two hours a day on it, watch Spanish speaking soaps or cartoons. (I’ve done all of that)
I AM willing to:….do some online course of some sort. Maybe 10 mins a day.
I might just, maybe, POSSIBLY be willing to:…work with a friend, go to a class with a friend (combine it with social occasion), start speaking it every chance I get for practice.
Well, lo and behold, getting real about it, and recognizing what I absolutely am not willing to do any more, kind of broke the impasse I had created.
When we kid ourselves about what we are actually willing to do, we remain stuck. And sometimes we set unrealistic or overly vague goals (to learn Spanish) and become overwhelmed. I had this big picture of attending classes, which cost a fortune and were held 3X a week. And did nothing for my Spanish. I’ve done it before.
After getting real with myself, I discovered an online course that doesn’t make me with froth at the mouth or bleed from the ears after 10 minutes (SynergySpanish.com), and while I don’t listen every day, I am managing it several times a week. It’s working. There is this smidgen of progress. A teeny tiny light at the end of the Spanish-speaking tunnel.
Try this process on your most stubborn goals. Try it on the 10 lbs one (come on, it’s on everybody’s list unless you’re skinny). See what comes up.
Let me know.
(If you want to know more about how to get goal setting to actually work, instead of just depressing you, shoot me an email and we can work together. I have some great processes for kick starting stubborn stuff back into gear.)