7 Life Mistakes–and what to learn from them

First, a quick note on what constitutes a “mistake.” There are those who say that mistakes are mistakes–you done wrong. Period.

Then there’s the camp that says there is no such thing as a mistake–that every experience in life is a learning opportunity, yadda yadda yadda.

In service to transparency–I tend to fall into the latter camp. Mistakes are learning experiences, and in the end, I have no regrets. I dig the gifts that have come from the “mistakes” I’ve made.

But let’s also be realistic–the choices we make have repercussions on our lives and the lives of others. It strikes me as a bit too smug, a tad too shiny and glib, to brightly proclaim, “Why, there’s no such thing as a mistake!” and leave it at that. Also worth noting? I do run into the occasional person who uses this to excuse themselves from having a conscience about their poor behavior.

Now, having said all that, you’ll know where I’m coming from: integrity all the way, owning your choices, including making the choice to learn from your “mistakes.”


Here are my top seven “Life Mistakes”–and what you can learn from them:

1.) Staying in any relationship past its expiration date. You know what I’m talking about–when everything in you senses that this is O-V-E-R, and the weeks (or, ahem, months) of girding your loins to end it are just time wasted trying to avoid the “breakup feelings” that you know you’re going to feel, anyway. Doubly true for the time I stayed with this guy.

2.) Keeping anything at all past its expiration date. Same logic as above, and I’ve done this more than once. For instance, I once dumped $1k into an old car that everyone, including my father, was telling me to get rid of. Did the car last? Of course not. Just as with relationships, you can’t resuscitate something that is dying–you can only keep putting time or money into it. Just recently, it was time to either invest money into tuning up my old car, or decide to get a new one. I called my father, who said, “Get a new one.” This time, I listened. Same goes for jeans that no longer fit, jobs that are underwhelming, or anything else that is not a match. Find a way to make it a match, and if you don’t, release it.

3.) Trying to work for myself without having enough money, experience, or collaborative networks–thinking “If you build it, they will come.” Note: What I learned from that experience was not that I should always have a plan, but rather–how to fail, and fail better, and fail better, until I wasn’t failing any longer. It’s a harder road, but it taught a shit-ton of self-sufficiency and really honed my tenacity for picking myself back up, not to mention it being behind the massive success of The Coaching Blueprint, which helps people to circumvent as many of those mistakes as possible.

4.) Repeating gossip about other people–even if it’s not a slam. I once repeated gossip I’d heard, not from the perspective of agreement, but from the perspective of, “Isn’t it shitty that so-and-so said such-and-such about our friend, Nice Person?” Somehow, it got back to Nice Person that Kate had been the one saying “such-and-such” when in fact I’d only been repeating the “such-and-such” and disagreeing with it. The fallout from that experience? Brutal. Many a coaching session went into dissecting that one, and particularly healing the wounds that came from being left out of the social circle. What did I learn from it? Tons.

5.) Not telling that “social web guru” what I really thought of her condescending attitude, and asking her to either make right or send me a refund. Lesson learned? Not speaking up in times like these will make you feel like a sucker. As Brene Brown says, “Choose discomfort over resentment.”

6.) Pulling an “I’m mad at you, so I’m not talking to you” with a few friends over the years. Apparently, the thirteen-year-old in me didn’t quite get over herself until I was in my latter twenties and decided to grow up and let people make their own choices without my judgment. Lesson learned? Self-righteousness is painful.

7.) Losing my temper in big, bad, scary ways–ways that are out of control and completely unfair, even abusive. What have I learned from that anger? A lot about how to work with it and have compassion for myself, as well as the humbling realization that all the self-help work in the world would not justify bad behavior. It’s also simultaneously vulnerable and powerful to own up to it.


Beyond making mistakes, I have more interest in the question of how we learn from them, how we course-correct, and what the mistakes contribute to our lives.

I can see how some of the mistakes on this list had more impact because they were repeated several times–we continue to make the same mistake, over and over, hoping that it’ll turn out differently the next time, that life will justify our old pattern rather than giving us the message that we need to take responsibility for our lives and be the stewards of change.

It’s worth evaluating your life and asking yourself–are there any places where I do that? Where I make the same choice, again and again, and it’s clearly not serving me?

Fear might be running the game at those times, but there’s always the big bold possibility of practicing courage. That’s how you see what’s on the other side of the mistake–by feeling stuck and pissed and sad and worried and alone, and choosing to walk through the fire, anyway.

P.S. I’ll be there, right beside you. Let’s be beautifully, imperfectly human–together.

Circle up: Answering the call to rise after making every conceivable mistake

It was the late 2007 when I had my first aspirations of turning what I was doing with coaching into a full-time practice.

I’m going to buck the trend, here, and be honest–I did everything wrong. Everything. From having a “build it, and they will come” mentality, to not having enough money saved up, to not knowing what in the world I was offering and trying to offer absolutely everything, to having no business experience and zero mentorship–I made every mistake in the book.

Six months later, savings account depleted and feeling duly chastened by the marketplace, I scurried back to full-time teaching.

By late 2009, however, I had recovered sufficiently enough that I felt something burgeoning and I knew that it was time–time to really practice courage and answer the call to take the sort of risks that I knew I believed in.

I had a few more things going for me, at this point. For one thing, I knew what social media was, and how to use it. I had a WordPress blog. As a coach, I was no longer trying to be all things for everyone. And finally, I knew that “if you build it, they will come” was not going to work–

I knew that I needed to hustle on as grand of a scale as I dreamed.

I still struggled throughout much of 2010but the difference this time was that I was learning.

In essence, I created a learning laboratory of sorts. I tried things, they didn’t go well, I tried them again with slightly different incarnations. It was a huge time of experimentation, and heartache when things didn’t go well (because man, oh man, was I taking things really personally).

And Now

When I wrote The Coaching Blueprint for life coaches, I knew exactly who I was writing it for: the “me” that I was when I first became a life coach, not knowing what I was doing, feeling utterly overwhelmed by the information overload that was out there. All of the time trying to “figure it out” had nearly burned me out–and I didn’t want any other life coaches to have that experience.

This is also what I put into The Blueprint Circles for Life Coaches. The idea behind Coaching Blueprint Circles is that I work in an intensive, focused way with a small group of life coaches, to help them circumvent years of reading about things, and struggling to clarify things, and trying to establish marketing networks instead of doing it alone, and on– and on– and on–

–and instead, help 6 unique life coaches just get in there and GO, already.

Life coaches don’t to spend a few years trying to “figure this out” if there are people who have strategic ideas who can help.

When I tally everything up, I realize that it took me from late 2009 to early 2011 to really get a groove going–and I’m speaking as someone who doesn’t have kids, and who had time to really invest in hours of reading, researching–and the money to hire consultants.

The Blueprint Circles are for the life coach who doesn’t have all that time, or all of that money–it’s $350 for a month of business mentorship.

I sincerely believe that life coaches, and coaching, provides value–and that a lot of life coaches who are really talented and willing to be of service are getting lost in the bushes, or investing their time into cheesy marketing practices that make their practice look bad, or sometimes investing time and money into getting something going that they don’t even believe in–but that someone has said they “must” do in order to make money.

The first Blueprint Circle starts on May 3rd.

If you find that you want to join, but now’s just not the right time, head here to get on the mailing list–you’ll be first in line to be notified when a new Blueprint Circle for life coaches is opening.

Courage, revolution, and getting fully behind your practice are only part of the deal–there’s also strategy, feedback, and collaboration, and it’s here for you. If you don’t create this for yourself with a Blueprint Circle, do yourself a favor and find other ways of creating and integrating these pieces–because the world needs your gifts.

in praise of “who the hell do you think you are?”

I know, I know–it’s a crippling question:

“Just who the hell do you think you are?”

The inner critic, feeling insecure and nervous and afraid, will dish that up, often at unexpected moments, moments when I’m rolling along and think that I’m rocking out, doing my thing, and then someone arches their eyebrow in a certain way and I’m wondering what that was about.

It’s the hell of the intuitive, empathic type–our intuition and empathy allows us to look a brother or sister in the eye and know within seconds that all is not well and our friend is holding back pain between clenched teeth, but on the flip-side, I swear we sense the judgment of others, faster, too.

But the thing is–I’ve been learning to really like asking this question.

Say that I write a blog post. It’s kind of ballsy, kind of out there. “Who the hell do you think you are, to say that?” says the inner critic.

Then, interestingly, more and more with each passing year–

–I want to come up with an answer. I’m quite curious. I turn the question over, in my mind.

“Yes, good question. Exactly who the hell do I think I am?”

There are some interesting answers.

Ballsy, brash, tells-it-like-it-is.

Insecure, not up to the task, feeling flat-lined.

Transparent, bold, courageous.

Sometimes the inner critic isn’t so thrilled that I’m playing that game.

“Who are you to think that you have any right?” the critic persists. “And what’s the point, anyway? Why do you think that whatever you write is any different than what anyone else is saying? You’re generic; mediocre. Why bother?”

Oooh, another good question: “What’s the point, anyway? Why bother?”

Ringing like an echo: Why bother? Why bother? Why bother?

Do we ever stop to realize that rather than scurrying away from that question with fear, it’s actually a really good question to ask ourselves from time to time?

Why bother? Because the words run through my fingers to keypad to screen from some place that’s beyond day-to-day thought.

Why bother? Because I’m committed, and they wouldn’t call it “commitment” if there weren’t days, weeks, even months where one had to slog through.

Why bother? Because I’m willing to be someone’s light today, starting with being my own.

Who do you think you are? Why bother? What do you really have to say, anyway?

Even if you answer “nothing, no reason, nothing” to those three questions, there’s an interesting jumping off point there, as well–because when you don’t have a lot of pre-conceived ideas about who and what you are, you also don’t have any boxes to try to get out of.

The slate is clean. The canvas is blank.

It might even be that the reason asking this question is so difficult for you is NOT because “Oh dear god, I don’t know who I am!” but rather–

–the definitions can be stifling, and your spirit knows it.

So who the hell are you? And why should you bother?

Honestly, who the hell knows?

But I, for one, am having a helluva a good time with what I’ve already discovered, and with what remains to be found out. It gets me a lot farther than the angst.

Try that on for size, sometime, and see if it fits.