Beyond Failure

One can study a caterpillar forever and never be able to predict a butterfly. 
Buckminster Fuller

I have been thinking about the difference between failure and success. I decided at the beginning of 2010 that I wanted to understand and experience success. But 2010 feels like I learned more about failure, endings, loss, and releasing all my ideas of what success is—and what I consider failure to be. 

As of this writing, this has been the year I have seen the edifice of my life crumble, and all the fond hopes and dearly held beliefs burned away in the fires of an unrelenting financial struggle and watching the world I knew dying. If that sounds dramatic, so it has been. But the greater drama has been played out inside me as I questioned everything I thought I knew. 

The year also brought great gifts. Though the twenty-plus-year book publishing career imploded (actually started falling apart in mid-2008) I am now at the beginning of a career writing for the healthcare industry, discovering that I had unknowingly prepared for writing about integrative medicine just by following my interests, back in the day when the Christian publishers I worked with thought such stuff was “woo woo” or even of the devil. Now it’s the stuff of everyday conversation with the people I work with—doctors and healthcare practitioners who are finding new ways to help others heal themselves. From aromatherapy to energy medicine, healing touch to meditation, my explorations into the alternative world of medicine paralleled my spiritual researches, both leading me away from conventional mainstream thinking.

But following my heart did have an effect on my pocketbook—and that was not always positive. I have paid a price for my choices. One acquisitions editor told me he could not present my next book proposal because I was becoming a “universalist.” I wasn’t even sure what that was at the time, but I knew meant that a publisher I had long been affiliated with was no longer an option for my author career. I felt like I had been kicked out of the family.

A couple of years after that, another publisher declared bankruptcy a month after publishing my book, and it took me a year to get the rights back. More recently, in June 2009 my publisher put my books out of print and my agent let me go. From mid-2008 through 2010, the industry I knew so well, including the Christian book industry, has changed beyond recognition. All of the people I worked with for so many years were laid off, and the world I knew and loved (and sometimes feared) disappeared. 

There is a new infrastructure being built, which is why I am self-publishing my books on Smashwords and giving my blog readers links to leaders in the new technology paradigm like Chris Guillebeau, Seth Godin, Christine Kane, Pamela Slim, Mark Coker, and more. But the publishing infrastructure is still building, and has yet to replace the financial structure that once supported me. We are all learning together, and following the early adapters is my best clue to creating a success with my books, e-books, and blog.

I moved to Nashville in 1993 for the songwriting, and that world has changed even more drastically. At least book publishers learned something from the awful example of the music industry, and have worked to adapt to changes in technology instead of fighting the inevitable. But a whole world of music publishing disappeared, and many gifted songwriters have seen a way of life that allowed them to live off their songs disappear. Like everyone else, they are finding ways to adapt, but many dreams have died and skills learned for one way of life have been set aside to adapt to another reality.

If the caterpillar knew its destiny, would it mourn the loss of its caterpillar existence? The caterpillar is born with a set of cells called imaginal buds. They are dormant until the time is ripe, and then they awaken and multiply. At first the caterpillar’s immune system attacks these cells, perceiving them as invaders. Yet it is the caterpillar’s own genes that are doing the work of transformation that will lead to a greater destiny. When the caterpillar’s body can no longer fight the growing invasion of imaginal buds, it spins a cocoon. Inside the cocoon, the caterpillar’s body is no longer recognizable, and all boundaries dissolve. Only when the creature emerges from its cocoon will this process of loss and disintegration reveal itself as a butterfly. 

We who are in process must be wary of labeling ourselves as “successes” or “failures.” We are too close to the situation to see clearly. At age thirty-two, Buckminster Fuller, the inventor of the geodesic dome, contemplated suicide. A series of business failures made him feel that the best thing he could do was to relieve the world of his unwanted presence. He didn’t commit suicide, but he did decide he would live as if he had died that night. He committed to questioning continuously, “What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about, that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?” Instead of trying to avoid failure or create success, he just kept asking questions, following his instincts, and contributing to each situation as it arose. Working for the universe instead of himself, he made a lasting contribution that is still affecting our society today.

So, when I look at my losses and “failures” I understand that my view is too limited, and there is a larger context that connects unseen threads, and what might be considered a failure in one era could be the genesis of a success in another era. How many artists and writers and inventors were laughed at in their day, only to be lionized in a later era for being visionaries and pioneers? 

What is happening in the moment is never the entire story of what is actually going on. Buckminster Fuller liked to point out that the honeybee thinks it’s the honey that is important. But the bee is nature’s way of cross pollinating the flowers, and without that ceaseless worker doing his tiny bit, there would be no fruits and flowers for the world to enjoy. 

I now ask myself, “What can I do today to offer my gift and serve the greater good? Who is in front of me to serve? How can I approach everything I do more creatively, with greater love?” This leaves behind the judgment of “success” or “failure” and makes way for a greater good than my limited mind can conceive. 

The dear friends in the book and music industry who are struggling (or finding unexpected success in the reinvention of their careers) are creating more than a career shift. I see the development of a deeper and stronger character, and more compassion for themselves and others. A former rock star or bestselling author (or songwriter or author who never experienced success in the old paradigm) can be reborn to a new life that contributes to the greater good, even if that greater good includes a more humble, invisible service than before. 

It is time to move beyond labels of “success” or “failure.” It’s never that cut-and-dried. We are all in process, and we are all beautiful children of the Most High. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” If we can truly live this prayer in our lives, we will have truly lived. 


Failure is the tuition you pay for success.
Walter Brunell

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. Confucius 

I have not failed. I've just found 10, 000 ways that won't work. 
Thomas A. Edison 

We pay a heavy price for our fear of failure. It is a powerful obstacle to growth. It assures the progressive narrowing of the personality and prevents exploration and experimentation. There is no learning without some difficulty and fumbling. If you want to keep on learning, you must keep on risking failure all your life.
John W. Gardner

Never walk away from failure. On the contrary, study it carefully and imaginatively for its hidden assets. 
Michael Korda

Those who have failed miserably are often the first to see God's formula for success. 
Erwin W. Lutzer

We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen. 
Thomas Merton

There are defeats more triumphant than victories.
— Michel de Montaigne

I thank God for my handicaps for, through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God.
— Helen Keller

The season of failure is the best time for sowing the seeds of success. 
Paramahansa Yogananda

Failure is the foundation of success, and the means by which it is achieved. Success is the lurking-place of failure; but who can tell when the turning point will come?
— Lao-Tse 

Flops are a part of life’s menu, and I’ve never been a girl to miss out on any of the courses.
— Jane Russell

The only thing that is worse than learning from experience is not learning from experience.
Linda Ellerby

Success is overrated. Everyone craves it despite daily proof that man’s real genius lies in quite the opposite direction. Incompetence is what we are good at: it is the quality that marks us off from animals and we should learn to revere it.
Stephen Pile (author of The Incomplete Book of Failures: The Official Handbook of the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain)

Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure.
— Norman Vincent Peale

Fred Astaire was described by one studio that rejected him as a balding, skinny actor who can dance a little.

Thomas Edison’s first teacher called him “addled,” and others said he would never make a success of anything.

Einstein’s parents were afraid he was retarded. A teacher told him he would never amount to anything.

Puccini, the great composer, had a music teacher who said that he had no talent and gave up on him.

The University of Vienna rejected Gregor Mendel, the founder of genetics. One of his professors wrote, “Mendel lacks the requisite clarity of thought to be a scientist.”

We don’t like their sound. Groups with guitars are on the way out.
— Decca Recording Company, rejecting the Beatles

Affirmative prayer

What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about, that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?
What can I do today to offer my gift and serve the greater good? 
Who is in front of me to serve? 
How can I approach everything I do more creatively, with greater love?
I commit myself to doing good work today.
I’ll take care of the quantity and do my best.
I trust God with the quality, knowing that the results are not my responsibility.
I release all judgments, knowing that love is the only measure of success that counts. 

Introducing an inspiring friend: 

On that same note, here’s a bit from Seth Godin on interpreting criticism: 

Criticism of your idea is usually based on assumptions about the world as it is. Jackson Pollock could never have made it as a painter in the world as it was. And Harry Potter was rejected by just about everyone because for it to succeed the way kids read would have to change.

The useful element of this sort of criticism isn't the fact that people embracing the status quo don't like your idea. Of course they don't. The interesting question is: what about the world as it is would have to change for your idea to be important?

Starbucks had no chance if they were going to focus on the sort of person who bought coffee at Dunkin Donuts or a diner, and the iPad couldn't possibly succeed if people were content to use computers the way they were already using them.

Keep that in mind the next time a gatekeeper or successful tastemaker explains why you're going to fail.

Check out the entire Sept 10, 2010 blog entry at

Living Up to Your Highest Values

Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little. 
Edmund Burke

A conversation with a friend (and my own life experience) prompted these thoughts. 

Do you wrestle with doubt? Do you feel as if your life just doesn’t measure up? I honestly want to live my life according to my highest values. Yet so often it feels like I’m falling short of my ideals—or even failing altogether. I look at the gap between where I am and where I want to be, and wonder how I will ever get from here to there. 

I think we tend to believe that to live by our highest values means turning our lives upside down, or that we have to get everything in our lives "perfect," as if we cannot begin where we are. I cannot honestly say that I live by my highest values 100% of the time. I wrestle with my own indecision, fears, doubts, mistakes, and misbeliefs. But it is always possible to take baby steps in the right direction by doing one or two simple, self-empowering things each day. 

I have found setting aside time for meditation—the sit down and quiet your busy judgmental mind kind of meditation—to be particularly helpful and empowering, especially in the midst of crisis. I have been doing mindfulness meditation in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk. I highly recommend his books, as they offer a simple introduction to this practice. Mindfulness meditation is not only good for the mind, it is also healing to the body. I have become healthier and calmer since I began a serious meditation practice.

Here are three practical books that offer insight on the benefits and practice of meditation, and on the way the mind/ego works. These authors offer simple instructions for beginners as well as advanced insights for experienced meditations. 
• Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by John Kabat Zinn is a great intro to mindfulness meditation.
• The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle offers another practical perspective on how the mind works and how our thoughts will empower or defeat us.
• The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh is a small classic, offering a Zen master’s method of meditation, concentration, and relaxation. 

If you are wondering how you can live by and express your highest values, you have already started a journey that will take you far beyond the limits of old ways of living. Starting with a small action, like taking a few minutes of meditation to start and end the day, will open your heart and mind to the greater wholeness that lives within. 

Give yourself grace and space, and remember that when a toddler is learning to walk, she doesn't let falling stop her. She may cry or get angry. But she just keeps getting up and eventually she learns to do what she was born to do: walk! She grows in her skills until she can run and dance and play. Those first steps may not be a climb to the top of Mt. Everest, but no one climbs to the top of anything without learning to take baby steps first!

So take baby steps toward a life lived in the light of your fondest hopes, deepest dreams, and highest values. Here are a few suggestions: 
• Spend ten minutes sitting quietly with your eyes closed, following your breath.
• Get out of the house or office. Go for a gentle walk in woods or down a neighborhood street, taking in the sights and sounds. 
• Plant some herbs in a garden and use them to make delicious dishes. I love fresh marjoram in potato, onion, and celery soup (with or without milk/cream). 
• Speak a positive or kind word when you are tempted to criticize. 
• Forgive others (and yourself) instead of wallowing in blame and anger. 
• Make room for a new story by choosing to no long tell the old story of victimhood or blame. 
• Buy yourself an affordable bouquet of flowers. Better yet, share part of the bouquet with a friend. 
• Keep your mouth shut when you are tempted to gossip or complain. Don’t even let your mind start down the self-pitying path, because you know that’s a dead end.
• Be gentle on yourself. Notice those times of day when you seem to sink into discouragement. Take a break. Close your eyes and rest or say some affirmations, or even eat a snack or take a nap. Then you can come back to your day refreshed. 

Applaud your victories, no matter how small they seem. One victory leads to other victories, and each is important. Small victories that help you live life by your highest values, even if your life is not yet all you wish it could be. 

A strong positive attitude will create more miracles than any wonder drug.
Patricia Neal

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.
Mother Teresa

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life.
John Homer Miller

Beware of despairing about yourself; you are commanded to put your trust in God, and not in yourself.
Saint Augustine 

Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
Galatians 6:5 THE MESSAGE

Trust God for great things; with your five loaves and two fishes, He will show you a way to feed thousands. 
Horace Bushnell

Affirmative prayer

There is one life and that life is God, and that life is my life now. Every day I learn and grow and expand my consciousness. I make positive choices that empower me to become love in action. Each small step taken in the direction of my dreams is a victory to celebrate. I thank God for the eternal good that flows in, through, and for me, and for the blessings I can then share with others freely and generously, because I am generously provided for. God is my Source, and my right thinking keeps me connected to my Source and creates a life I love to live. And so it is.

The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own. 
--Benjamin Disraeli 

Introducing an inspiring friend (or in this case, re-introducing a friend with a great new product): 

Do you want to build your own business? I highly recommend Chris Guillebeau’s Empire Building Kit. I bought EBK (as I fondly call it) on the first launch, and it’s been worth every penny. There’s so much great information here, and I receive an encouraging and practical email every day that helps me take it one baby step at a time. 

Chris shows you how to take the first few steps to build your own online empire—from the ground up. The Empire Building Kit shows how you can build a sustainable lifestyle business doing what you love—for customers who love you right back.

The Kit includes 15 integrated case studies in several media formats, additional modules of instruction, and a series of emails—one a day for a year. The videos are ready whenever you are. You can download them for later viewing on a Mac or a PC.

The Empire Building Kit helps you answer these questions: 
• Which business ideas are most likely to succeed? (How do you know when to trust your gut?)
• What are the most important steps to take in building an empire -- and which ones can you stop worrying about?
• How can you dramatically increase profits in an existing business?
• How can you create a soft-sell environment where eager customers can't wait to buy your next offering? (No highlighter required.)
• Most importantly... how can you do all of this without killing yourself? (Sure, you’re willing to work as hard as it takes—but never on the wrong things.)

To further equip you in your empire building journey, Chris will send everyone who gets the Hail Caesar or Alexander the Great kits his personal 43-Step Product Launch Checklist. Not every step is required, but if you follow at least 30 of the steps in your own product launch, you'll see MUCH greater results than if you went it alone.

One of these steps helps bring in an additional $2,000 for every launch. Another one ensures that 35% of customers buy another product right after their first order, thereby increasing the average yearly revenue by $15,000. You'll get this bonus right after your purchase, along with the case studies, additional instruction, 365-day email signup, and everything else. 

I believe in this product, and in Chris, so much that I am an affiliate (that’s to let you know I get a piece of the action if you click through from my website—and Chris is, so far, the only affiliate I carry, because his work has helped change my life and I know he can help change yours for the better). 

If you want to explore the possibilities, the link to his online AONC store is in the quick links section on the right hand side of my website pages. Click the button and see if you want to join us in building a thriving business empire today. 


  1. June 29, 2010 6:49 PM CDT

    I came across your book "101 ways to simplify your life" and was looking for it when I came across your website and blog. What an encouragement! I needed to hear it too. This past year has been nothing but disappointment after another. Your blog was just another reminder that God is for me. Thank you.

    - Chrissy

What to Do While You're Expecting Miracles

With God, all things are possible.
Matthew 19:26

I had a choice to make when I woke up this morning. I could panic about my current problems or I could choose to focus on positive action. It’s easy to panic, especially in times like these. It seems all the headlines of fear and calamity are not only screaming at you, they are also being amplified by the voice in your head. I don’t know about you, but that scary voice in my head can quickly drown out common sense, dragging me down to being a whimpering child trying to hide her head under the covers. Being naturally prone to drama (especially in my mental movie theater!) I can get pretty creative with worst-case scenarios. That kind of drama belongs in the pages of a novel or on the silver screen, not in my life. What I need most in times like these is a more positive approach. Worry only makes me freeze in fear or want to run away and hide. 

So what do I do on those days when fear, doubt, and worry are ready to overwhelm me? I change my patterns of thought. Instead of wasting energy on imagining how bad it can get, I go to the Source. I go to God. I pray affirmative prayers. I quiet my mind and reconnect with my true spiritual essence. I remember that I am one with God, and that the Divine within is greater than any problem or challenge I face. I feed my spirit with helpful reading. I pray for others on a regular basis. I write in my morning pages journal to process my thoughts, feelings, and get the negatives out of my system. I practice gratitude for the blessings I already have and thank God for the blessings to come. And then I take action.

Today it was the simple action of vacuuming the dust bunnies out from under my bed. I’ve let cleaning go lately, and now the dust bunnies are starting to have baby dust bunnies. It’s a dust bunny population explosion! As I clean my house, I also feel like I’m clearing dust bunnies from my mind. A simple action like cleaning, sorting, or straightening can make you feel better. It reminds you that you are not helpless, but can make choices to make life better in small yet concrete ways.

And my next choice is to work on a project instead of delaying it. The project needs to be done. Becoming absorbed in useful work is good medicine in itself. When the work is done, you have a finished product that you can take pride in. 

I may also choose to gather with like-minded people and connect to a spiritual community. I normally take a spiritual growth class at my church, Nashville Center for Spiritual Living. I have sought out the mutual encouragement of songwriter nights. It was an essential way to become part of the music community when I first moved to Nashville. I met extraordinary friends and co-writers at writer's events. Though I don't go to as many writer's nights as I once did, I still like to see friends perform when I can. 

It’s vitally important to find a mutual encouragement society, whether it is a church, a class, a support group, or a circle of friends. I meet regularly with my prayer partners, and I value a weekly lunch date with a wise and encouraging friend. Spiritual progress may begin with an individual inner choice, but it’s not a Lone Ranger path. You need to find fellow pilgrims who can share the journey. It’s not only a way to receive, it’s a way to give back. 

Finally, because this day is one where I feel the temptation to go down the worry hole more strongly, I’m saying an affirmative prayer aloud. It’s a prayer that reminds me of who I am and the many ways the Divine Presence is with me; working in, through, and for me, guiding me into greater good than I can yet imagine. 

On days when I don’t have specific solutions to my problems, or am waiting for results to come from work I’ve already done, I open my heart and mind to the possibility that God can do something new—knowing I am not limited by past experience or bound by fears of the future. Right here, right now, I can choose my response to life. I choose wholeness over fear, faith over doubt. I can choose to trust that in this period of quiet gestation, miracles are getting ready to be born. 

Affirmative Prayer

This is a prayer treatment by Ernest Holmes that I am using right now to help me remember that God is my Source. With God, anything is possible! My minister, Dr. Mitch Johnson, says that this prayer has been helpful to him during difficult times. Say it aloud several times a day. It’s one way to focus your mind on possibilities instead of dwelling on problems and impossibilities. 

I Have Great Expectations
by Dr. Ernest Holmes

Knowing that there is a creative principle that reacts to that which I entertain in thought, I now establish in my thinking an attitude of expectancy of good things. I let go of the limitations of the past and live with an enthusiastic expectancy of the good that I will encounter today. I know that nothing is too good to be true and that nothing is too much for the power that can do anything. I expect the unexpected to happen and believe in a greater good than I have yet experienced. I keep my mind open to divine intuition, which is the wisdom that guides me. I have every right to expect the unexpected. New ideas are coming to me, new ways of doing things. I am meeting new and wonderful friends, new situations. Joyous things are happening to me. Divine Intelligence knows exactly what to do, when to do it, and fulfills my life in magnificent and creative ways effortlessly through grace.
Thank you God that this is so. 
And so it is. 

Introducing an inspiring friend: 

I recently attended a wonderful workshop. Dr. Dennis Merritt Jones definitely knows how to practice the art of abundance and he showed us fresh ways to become aware of God at work in our lives right here and now. He led us through creative mindfulness exercises during the afternoon, encouraging us to understand and experience the sacredness of life. One of my favorite exercises helped us become aware of the sensuous interconnectedness of all things. By simply peeling and slowly savoring an orange, you are connecting to all the people who brought this fruit to you: the farmer, the worker who picked the orange, the trucker who transported it to the store where you bought it, the clerk who sold it to you, and so on. Not only that, but the orange your are eating today connects you to a history of ideas and generations, often going back over a hundred years to the idea in the mind of the landowner who planted the first orange trees long before you were born. Someone who lived before you had a positive idea that is still affecting lives today. What creative idea or service can you contribute to making the world a better place?

I highly recommend his book, The Art of Being. Dennis says, “Each of the writings in The Art of Being are supported with Mindfulness Practices, offering action steps to implement the essence taught within the writing, turning ideas into action and every moment into a sacred experience. Ultimately, the understanding at which the reader will arrive is that spiritually, the art of being is actually a lifestyle, practiced daily. It is a way of walking our sacred earth every day.”

You can purchase his book at your local bookstore: The Art of Being: 101 Ways to Practice Purpose in Your Life by Dennis Merritt Jones (©2008 Tarcher/Putnam) or at and other retailers. 
Visit his website: