Turning Failure into Fertilizer

Do you learn from your failures? Do you use your failures to fertilize your growth and success? You have probably heard a quote or two, maybe three, about failure. While these quotes make failing seem like a good idea, it’s easier said than done.

Why even try to find the lesson in the failure? If we don’t find the lesson, we often shy away from potential future failures. We stop taking risks and place ourselves in a smaller and smaller box with every failure. The fertilizer can give us nourishment to grow, stretch and reach our goals. Without the fertilizer, we stunt our growth and wonder why we aren’t fulfilled.

Here are few steps to turn your Failures into Fertilizer:

1. Tell the Truth – When it comes to failures, we often don’t want to look at it. We hope we can just move past it. However, when we don’t look at it in the light, then it lingers around in the dark, letting the fear of future failure grow and fester. So take a look at the failure and all the feelings and thoughts that go with it. Bring it all to the light, you can find the lesson if you can’t see it.

2. Give up the Blame and Judgment – Once you have looked all the pieces of the failure, look at where you may have some blame toward someone else, yourself or the circumstances. I often blame myself for my failures, concluding there is an innate flaw in me that causes it. However, the blame will keep you stuck in the failure and the lessons hidden from your view. Once the blame is acknowledged and released, there is a sense of peace that arises, with that comes a clearer head.

3. Find the Lesson – With a clearer head, you now have the opportunity to look for the lessons of the failure. This can be challenging, but every failure has a lesson to learn if we are willing to look. There could even be several lessons? How could you have handled yourself differently in that situation? In action? In attitude? Once you discover the lessons to be learned, you gain a sense of freedom and power that fertilizes your goals and dreams.

Sara Nowlin is a life coach and author who specializes in empowering others to be authentic and fully self-expressed. She is a contributing author in the upcoming book, Speaking Your Truth, Volume 2. For more information, check out www.saranowlin.com or email sara@saranowlin.com.

Loving Your Ugly

To really love ourselves fully, we must love all of who we are – the good, the bad, and especially the ugly.

For me and many people I know, it’s much easier to love and embrace the good – the best parts of us – our talents, positive personality traits, and the most attractive parts of our body. The bad parts are a little more difficult to love. Our ugly parts, the ones we often want to ignore or forget, are much more challenging to accept and appreciate. However, it’s these ugly parts that are the most crucial for us to love in order to be authentic and at peace in our life.

When we think of these ugly parts of ourselves, they’re often things we’re ashamed of, feel guilty about, and try to hide from others (and sometimes even ourselves). They might be parts of our personality, aspects of our body, or even actions or experiences from our past.

The ugly part of myself that I’ve been learning to love is the aspect of my personality that bulldozes people. This “bulldozer” comes out when I want something to go my way and there are others who think it should go another way. My actions and attitude will flatten them and silence their voice.

We are taught from a young age that we can only show our good sides, and we must hide the bad ones. Because we usually hide these ugly parts, we often think we’re the only ones who have them. If we start telling the truth about the ugly parts, we will begin to see that we are not alone – it’s just part of being human.

If we can embrace our humanity with compassion and forgive ourselves for these ugly parts, we don’t have to be driven by the need to hide them. Doing this allows us to become more authentically who we are and also allows us to regain the energy that we’ve used to hold down and hide this ugly stuff.

Sometimes, people confuse “loving” with approving or condoning, especially when our ugly parts hurt others or ourselves. The bulldozer part of me is definitely not something that I approve of or condone. However, “loving” can mean that we give up making it wrong and become more neutral about it. In other words, we accept it as part of being human and part of who we are. I can accept and embrace my bulldozer as one part of the spectrum of my humanness. I don’t have to beat myself up when it comes up, but just own it and apologize when it squashes people.

Here are a few steps to help you love your own ugly and to accept yourself fully:

1. Tell the Truth to Yourself – Before we can shift or change anything, we need to know what we are dealing with. Examine all the thoughts, feelings, and judgments you have about your ugly parts (or some specific ugly part you want to make peace with). It often takes a lot of courage for us to shine a light on something we try to keep in the dark. However, we can’t love or embrace what we can’t see.

2. Be Willing to Give Up the Judgment – Our thoughts and judgments about an ugly part of ourselves can often seem like the “truth.” However, they are just our thoughts and judgments. If we can begin to separate our judgments from the truth, there is space to see something new.

3. Find the Value – Everything has some positive value, even the ugliest stuff. There is a gift, something to appreciate, that this ugly aspect of who you are provides. This is often a difficult step since we have spent so much of our time and energy judging this part of who we are. Although it may be difficult to find, seeing the value of your ugly is the key to finding compassion and forgiveness for yourself.

4. Embrace and Integrate – Once we find the value, we can begin to embrace it for what it gives us rather than hate it for what it takes away. The protective walls containing the ugly part start to fall away. The negative charge around it diminishes. When you embrace and integrate the ugly, you will find more freedom and ease to be your authentic self.

5. Share with Others – Sharing with other people can remind you that you are not alone. Friends and family can also support us by reminding us to love that ugly part when we forget. Sharing can also inspire others to do the same – to love and accept all of who they are.

Please be gentle with yourself as you do this work. It can be quite challenging and vulnerable, but can have a powerful impact on your life in the process. Also remember that you don’t have to do it alone. I often do this work with people I trust since it can be scary to look at the ugly. But, the freedom and peace that comes from doing this, makes it worth it.

Sara Nowlin is a speaker and life coach, specializing in authenticity and self-expression. Her signature program, The Truth about Ugly – Redefining Self-Image, focuses on embracing and owning all of who we are so we can be free to be ourselves. For more information – http://www.saranowlin.com

Miami Heat Threatens the Man Code

Who would have thought that a few tears in a locker room would cause such uproar about how men should act on the court? I am disappointed at the reaction in the sports world to the reported tears that were shed in the Miami Heat locker room on March 7th. The general reaction of “Grown Men Don’t Cry” has been broadcasted all over ESPN and other sports media. I didn’t realize that some guys crying would threaten the man world so much.

They broke the Man Code, the rules on how guys should act, by crying after losing a regular season game. The Man Code allows crying only in very specific circumstances – losing a championship, losing a very close playoff game, and sometimes getting hurt during the game. But even in those circumstances, men have to hide their faces in their hands or jerseys. If the tears are seen, they must wipe them as quickly as possible. And that is only tolerated because they are elite athletes, who fit within the code in many other ways.

The training in the Man Code is incredibly powerful and pervasive. Boys are taught from a very young age to suck it up and get teased sometimes viciously to follow the Code. The remarks made in the last couple of weeks may not have been as vicious as it would be in high school, but everyone has chimed in to take their shots including Phil Jackson who made the comment “Big boys don’t cry.”

They have made it clear that the Code has been broken and that will not be tolerated. This is both punishment and a warning to any other potential Code breakers. And anyone who has thought about breaking the Man Code in this way knows that the consequences are deep.

The part that infuriates me the most is all the young boys everywhere who are being trained with every news segment, every newspaper article, every radio show that mentions it, instilling even more fear about the consequences of breaking the Man Code.

The redeeming part of this whole tragedy is when Jalen Rose stepped onto the ESPN SportsCenter set to interrupt the segment to say his piece. He spoke openly and vulnerably owning how he has cried after a game. He broke from the Man Code and owned it. Thank you Jalen for stepping out and showing what a Real Man looks and acts like. A Real Man stays true to himself, and doesn’t let the Man Code define who he can be.

Sara Nowlin is a speaker and life coach, specializing in authenticity and self-expression. Her program, Breaking Free to Simply Be, focuses on the breaking from the rules society teaches us, including the Man Code, to give youth the freedom to be themselves. For more information – http://www.saranowlin.com

I am Woman, Hear Me Roar!

“I am woman, hear me roar.” That was my favorite song, when I was four-years-old. I can still see myself sitting in the backseat of my parents’ ’79 Toyota station wagon, I was singing my heart out to Helen Reddy’s “I am woman, hear me roar.” We were probably on our way to some Toastmaster conference in the middle of nowhere California. But that song made the trip worth it. I sang that song as often as I could.

Little did I know at the wise age of four, that it would be the Anthem of my life.

When I was growing up, you could definitely hear me roar. I was a fully expressed little girl: singing, dancing, acting, gymnastics. I was out there!

Then middle school and high school happened. Ugh. Like many other young girls, I chose to be accepted and belong over my self-expression. My roar, my voice was all but silenced at school.

However, there was one place where my voice could not be silenced – on the soccer field. I played soccer for over 20 years and in every position. My most infamous position was the fearless goalie on the high school varsity team. Whether you were on the opposite side of the field, on the sidelines, or in the stands, there was never a doubt, you would be able to hear me.

In college at Lehigh University, my roar grew louder, grew stronger. I primarily used my voice to advocate for others whose voice had been suppressed by society – women, people of color and the LGBT community. However, my voice for myself came out in my physical appearance with my piercings, tattoo, my dad’s personal favorite, the blue hair.

I became a middle school teacher to give my students what I never got – a chance to have their voices be heard. I worked tirelessly to provide those opportunities with a phenomenal partnership with the organization, Challenge Day. And in the process of teaching my students, I reclaimed my own voice at the very spot where it was first silenced.

It has taken several years to regain my raucous roar, but now it is stronger than ever.
Now much of my work as a life coach and motivational speaker is empowering women to reclaim their voices, own their roar.

One of my recent workshops was for female firefighters. In order to survive the male-dominated profession, they often had to quiet their voice. So much of the workshop was spent to give them an opportunity to share where and how they are silenced and give them courage and skills to reclaim their voice and bring it back in the firehouse.

It is these women who deeply inspire me to continue to work to empower women, to empower all people to use their voice, to reclaim their roar.

As Helen Reddy states perfectly:
I am Strong!
I am Invincible!
I am Woman!

Who is willing to join me?

What Makes Someone Persevere?

As I watched the Diane Sawyer special, “Miracle at the Mine,” I was struck by how it was a beautiful display of resilience of the human spirit. As I watched each miner rise out from the tubular elevator, appropriately named “Phoenix”, I saw where life was reclaimed, reborn, and reinstilled with faith.

I was so moved as each miner rose from the darkness and into the light. That is what resilience is – rising from the depths of darkness into the light of freedom and celebration.

We often talk and marvel on the resilience of people who have been through horrific atrocities and persevered, like Holocaust survivors, war refugees, children who were abused. What makes someone overcome their circumstances and rise above it all?

So what is exactly the message of resilience into our own lives? There were two essential components that created the “Miracle in the Mine.”

Faith – In order to survive, you must believe that the circumstances will get better. Life will get better. This isn’t to say that you can’t have moments of doubt or despair, but there has to be an overall hope for good to triumph. Hope was all around the miners. So much effort was put into creating and maintaining hope, not only for the miners, but for the families and nation as well. From the soccer games displayed in the mine to the webcam calls the miners had with the families to the weekly Catholic masses. Many prayed and used their belief in God to overcome the negative thoughts that are bound to come in when challenged.

In your own life, is faith is getting more air-time or is doubt? Where could you use a faith pick-me-up?

Support / Community – There were so many examples of community that kept the resiliency strong and alive for the miners. The government asked for global support for the rescue mission, to the unity created inside the mine, everyone’s intention was to enlist the people around them to provide support. Knowing they weren’t alone in their circumstances, provides a beautiful example of people around the globe coming together for a common purpose. When individuals begin to get tired and lose faith, it is the people around them who can provide that hope for them. The key is allowing others to be a part of your experience; letting them in to make a difference. It can give you time to rest and rejuvenate, be supported, be taken care of for a bit. It is not necessarily easy to let others in to your challenges, but it is the golden ticket to thriving from a challenging conversation.

Who around you has kept hope alive when you were feeling doubtful or cynical? Who can you reach out to now to ask to hold the torch of hope? Are there places where you don’t allow others to hold the torch of hope for you? What may be in the way of letting that happen? What are you willing to let go of in order to let others in for support?

When we are in challenging situations, it is common to hunker down and survive the situation, just make it work. I often find myself in that exact situation. The ideas of hope and support, especially support, is not my default way to consider resolving the situation. But every time I reach out for support, I am so grateful that I did.

Gossip and Social Media Don’t Mix

With the recent suicide of Tyler Clementi caused by cyber gossip, I have been sickened by the power of cyber bullying and gossip and the carnage it can leave in its path.  In the age of technology, the power of our words is exponential.  Gossip that used to spread by word of mouth, now is spread by text, email and social media where it can be seen by hundreds if not thousands of people in an instant.  The phrase “It went viral” can be great for someone like Susan Boyle, or it can be life ending for someone like Tyler Clementi.

In high school, I was a victim of gossip and rumors of being a lesbian.  There was a note left in my locker and that was all it took.  Word spread and I was being heckled and teased in the hallways.  Looking back now, I feel very grateful that it was nearly 20 years ago before technology was at our fingertips.  I can only imagine that the locker note would have been a Facebook message that everyone would have been able to see at school and in my community.  That would have been devastating and can’t imagine how I would have recovered.

I didn’t feel safe to talk to anyone about it, especially since it was in the early 90’s.  I kept it all in for years.  I don’t want to deny that much has changed in the last 20 years with gay rights and acceptance.  Yet I also acknowledge that there are thousands of young people and adults who deal with harassment and discrimination everyday.  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ) youth are three times more likely to commit suicide and 61% don’t feel safe at school because of their orientation.  Everyone deserves to feel safe and not alone, no matter your orientation.

Fortunately, there are organizations like the Hetrick-Martin Institute, supporting our young people who are dealing with these issues.  However, it is up to each and every one of us to protect our young people–all of our young people–from the destructive power of judgment and gossip.

We often say that kids have it easier these days, but there are definite drawbacks to life in the age of technology.  The old saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was never really true even back then, but in this era, words are even more hurtful and destructive.

However, the power of technology doesn’t have to be destructive, it can be used in powerful, inspiring, and life affirming ways.  A friend of mine, Gabrielle Bernstein, challenged everyone she knew to “Positive Posting” on Facebook / Twitter for 30 days to shift the power of the culture of cyber bullying to cyber celebrating.  So I invite you to take on the challenge and post positive messages on your social media sites.    Then perhaps one day, tragedies like that of Tyler Clementi will be a thing of the past.