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On Lessons in Failure

That feeling when… your company’s website crashes, and you don’t know how to fix it.


That was me on Monday of this week. Through a series of unfortunate events and a hosting transfer mishap, I found myself in the middle of a tech nightmare that broke our entire website.


My stomach dropped. My hands were sweating. I could feel myself warding off feelings of panic as I started opening support tickets and sending urgent emails in hopes that someone could help me fix it. Please – can’t someone just FIX IT.


As the minutes dragged on with no resolution my problem suddenly wasn’t just about me anymore. “What about that person searching for help online and finding a dead end on our site? That therapist that needs a resource quickly for a client in need? That family member trying to find the best fit for their loved one?”


More panic. More spinning.


“What if the site can’t be recovered? All that time/work/money/resources – what if it’s all gone?”


A wave of nausea.


As I worked through all the stages of anxiety, my team (bless them) stayed with me – extending our weekly hour-long Zoom call into the early hours of the evening as we worked on a solution together. We dug through all the little issues that were causing the big one, asked a lot of questions, and somehow found our way to the root of the problem.


A little hope. Good. Breathe.


They stayed with me through each stage of the repair. Step by laborious step. More sweating. More heart racing. Checks the clock. HOW IS THIS STILL NOT FIXED???


In the middle of our troubleshooting, my team prompts me to get up from my desk and check outside the front door. There waiting for me is a box of Tiff’s Treats warm chocolate chip cookies with a note from all of them: “We’re sorry you’re having a rough day!”


I could feel the tears well up. The problem wasn’t even fixed yet, and here’s a gift for simply going through it.


Back at my computer I hit ‘refresh’ relentlessly, hoping to see the contents of our homepage magically appear before me. But even after the root cause of the problem had been identified and fixed there was one important thing it needed to be completely resolved – time.



Still more time.


Nope… still not ready yet.




Finally. There it was. The site was restored. Everything seemed to be working. I let out the breath I didn’t realize I had been holding.


I tell you about my mishap in hopes that it encourages you this week. Whether it’s something marginal like fixing a broken website, or more paramount like fighting for that breakthrough with a client, or embarking on a journey of recovery, your problem is not beyond fixing and your failure doesn’t define you.


In her book Courage Over Comfort, Brené Brown says that failure can become our most powerful path to learning if we can give ourselves permission to both be imperfect and to believe that we are enough.


My path to learning is paved with lots of failures, imperfections and a few common themes.

  1. Identifying the root cause of your pain is the key to finding freedom from it. Addressing all the other little symptoms still needs to happen but it’s fruitless work until the real issue is tackled (and often there are a lot less of them once you do).
  2. Overcoming obstacles is more achievable with the right team/support system/community by your side. Find the people who encourage you in the midst of your problem; not who just show up after it’s over.
  3. Even after all this – getting to the other side of your pain inevitably takes time. It can feel painfully slow in the moment. After all the groundwork has been laid and all the right steps have been taken, it seems cruel and tortuous that you would still have to wait. And wait. And wait some more.


A therapist friend of mine wrote recently “waiting exposes what we believe, challenges our patience, refines our character, and confronts where we’ve placed our hope.” Waiting can feel like the hardest part, but I believe it’s what we owe the most for our growth.


Whatever is crashing around you in this moment, I’m contending for your breakthrough. As Brené says – vulnerability is not about winning or losing… it’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome. Thank you for having the courage to show up today.

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