How Failure Can Help You Succeed

I love graduation season! It’s so awesome to celebrate the successes of family and loved ones.  This year we celebrated my niece who graduated with her master’s degree in Public Administration from American University. This girl is extraordinary! She’s charming and beautiful, as comfortable on the floor with her baby cousins as she is at an elegant table with dignitaries. She’s traveled the world and navigated influential political circles, and if you met her you might assume the path to success was laid out for her from the very beginning—that she is destined to be great.

But that’s not quite true.

I mean, she is destined to be great, but the path has not always been clear. You see, in high school she struggled to stay focused. In college, she did not—at first—balance well the responsibilities of school and social life. Like so many young people on their own for the first time, my girl finished her second year of undergrad behind the 8 ball!

Yet, despite her failures, she was, even then, moving in the direction of her destiny.  Although it was not apparent, something was happening.  She was growing up. She was figuring it out and preparing…

The path that led to her eventual success is one with which we are all familiar. Whether you’re 18 or 40, you can, no doubt, point to times when you’ve made poor choices or no choices! Perhaps you failed to start tasks or failed at tasks you started.  Failure is demoralizing, so we tend to avoid experiencing–and certainly avoid discussing—it.  We would rather pretend it doesn’t exist, or steer ourselves towards paths that are less risky—but at what cost? In his book Produced by Faith, Devon Franklin says “It is tempting to give ourselves an easy excuse not to audaciously pursue the career of our dreams [but] whoever said that faith was safe?” In other words, rather than avoiding or being ashamed of our failures, perhaps we should simply glean from them. Every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” (Winston Churchill)

As my niece worked through her personal and academic challenges, she also learned that every experience eventually works together for good. Circumstances, too, can push us to make the choice we might not have had the courage—or the will—to do otherwise. For her, it was stepping onto campus and into her junior year of college alone!  The friends who’d been with her since freshman year were gone. For the first time she was face to face with herself and God’s purpose, with no distractions.

And that’s when it clicked.

The years of meandering culminated in two years of focus and hard work that not only propelled her out of undergrad with honors, but also into a prestigious graduate program with full financial support!

What circumstances are you facing that might be pushing you towards positive action? Have you avoided failure or shied away from the lessons that your failures might teach? Don’t let present or past failures immobilize you. Let them propel you! It may just be a matter of time before it clicks!

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Cover image by Canva

It’s Time to Say Goodbye!

So, you may have noticed, if you’re a follower of this blog, that posts have stretched farther and farther apart lately. When we started this journey I was full of ideas! They flowed like a river, onto the page and out to your electronic devices. Granted, over the past two years, there have been some interruptions to this flow, but for the most part I have been able to find inspiration almost everywhere! Then came January 2019! This year has brought many changes—mostly positive—but it seems that I lost my footing. Somehow, I drifted off the path and away from the destination that I intended.

So, it’s time to bring it back!  Books & Coffee is for writers and creative people, like you, looking for inspiration, tips and tools for maintaining your creative flow.  But, even those of you who wouldn’t call yourself “writers” can identify with striving for something that is elusive—whatever it is you associate with success. For writers, it’s a book deal or publication, for others it’s just having your hard work recognized and valued. Whatever your gift, you long for the fulfillment of putting it to use and doing it well, yet sometimes struggle with both.

I get it! That’s why we’re here—to work through those difficulties and celebrate the successes.

With that goal in mind, today—and for the next few weeks—we’re going to tackle one enemy that is familiar to all writers—WRITERS BLOCK! Some say it’s an imaginary foe, but anyone who’s struggled with something knows it’s a thing when it keeps you from attaining your goal, even if–perhaps, especially if–it’s all in your mind!

But we’re not letting this one hold us anymore. Maybe your captor isn’t Writer’s Block, it doesn’t matter. You will discover that writing in and of itself is a powerful weapon. Want to give it a try? Here’s what you do:

  1. Put your butt in a chair
  2. Put your fingers on a keyboard (or, if your old school, grab a pen and paper!).
  3. Say bye-bye–literally!

Write a letter breaking up with Writer’s Block (or whatever “it” is). Start with, “Dear _______, it’s not you, it’s me …”.

Here’s mine:

Dear Writer’s Block,

It’s not you, it’s me:

I’ve allowed you to control me.
I’ve allowed you to make me feel inadequate.
I’ve allowed you to tell me I can’t.

But no more. I will not allow you to hurt me, hold me or tell me I’m nothing. You will no longer have the control over me that you once had, because I have been weak in the past, but I’m strong now. I’ve learned how to defeat you. I’ve been thinking about you and fretting over you all these weeks and months, but I have finally realized I don’t have to. In fact, focusing on you is what has kept me bound! Instead, I’m going to focus on me. And instead of looking at myself through your eyes, I am looking at myself through the lens of my Creator. You say I’m nobody, He says I’m somebody. He says I can be so much stronger than I am if I just walk away from you. It has been hard, because you’re very persuasive, but this is it! This is me taking the first step away…

Away from abuse
Away from turmoil
Away from defeat

I can do this. I can be what I was created to be as long as I stay away from you.


So, peace out.

What do you need to break up with? Write it in your journal or on a sheet of paper that you will tear into a million little pieces. It’s up to you. Just do it!

Maybe your break-up will inspire someone else to walk away from an unhealthy situation, share your break-up letter in the comments!

Next week: What would you do if someone started leaving little gifts on your desk every day? Come back next week and we’ll see if we can unlock the mystery!

Until next time, Happy Writing!


“Breaking up with Writer’s Block” from Brian Klems and Zachary Petit’s Bootcamp of Writing Prompts

Cover Photo by jurien huggins on Unsplash

Mayhem Monday: No Need to Plan?

It’s New Year’s Eve–so, how did you fare?  How did you score on the scale of success this year? Did you rack up? Achieve big dreams in 2018? Or, as you tally up your points, do you find that, like me, some of your plans are still “loading”?

I don’t know what it is, but it seems to me that the more plans I make, the more those plans fall apart! I wonder if it’s better not to plan. Perhaps I should just fly by the seat of my pants and see what happens! But, ancient wisdom says “those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” As I flip through old notebooks and scribbled notes, I see great ideas that have fallen by the wayside.  I sigh as slips of paper slip off of my night stand, symbolic of dreams deferred.  Who can deny the rough realities, ideals that intersect with conflicting interests and desires that drag on but don’t deliver?  I have yet to discover the secret to seeing them through—how to push plans from ideation to three dimension. I get close, but no cigar…

Nicole Walters, entrepreneur

Or, at least, that’s been my mantra. Then a friend sent me a link to Nicole Walters talking about her new podcast. I love Nicole Walters. I’ve been following her off and on for a while now. Some call her “ScOprah”–the successful entrepreneur who quit her 6-figure corporate job live on Periscope and launched her own (now) 7-figure company. She’s a force to be reckoned with, let me tell you! She’s such an amazing, confident, fearless woman who doesn’t waste too much time planning. I mean, she plans, but she doesn’t. What I love about Nicole is that she’s successful because she doesn’t allow planning to keep her stuck in one place. She moves forward with her plans and lets God do the rest. And you know what? She’s found AMAZING success as a result.  Her story is not new, though. 

What I realize is that what God is doing in Nicole’s life He’s been doing for ages.  You see, He has this habit of showing up in ways that can’t be explained in human terms.  Throughout the Bible there are examples of Him demonstrating His power in just the opposite way and at just the opposite time than people expected. In Genesis, he gave Joseph a dream, then sent him into exile. In Exodus, the Hebrews endured oppression for 400 years only to be dragged into the desert by an 80 year old shepherd! During the time of the Judges, he chose a woman, rather than a king, to defeat the Canaanites and a boy, Samuel, to be his prophet! Over and over again God turned the plans the people had upside down, then did something completely unbelievable just to show them who was really in charge. Yet, in every situation, he also turned what looked like defeat into amazing success!

So, as I think about the many plans that I’ve begun, then abandoned, and the many ideas that I’ve been too afraid to pursue, I realize that it’s because I’ve been relying on my own abilities. I’ve been waiting until the perfect time, until I had the perfect resources, and until everything was perfect in my estimation. But I think I’ve been looking at it all wrong. The better question is what do I need to be doing, regardless of whether my planning is perfect?

Plans or no plans, 2019 may be the year to move ahead in faith and see what amazing thing God wants to show us that you and I could have never imagined!

What do you think?

Proverbs 19:21

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash