If you’re on my mailing list or follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that I recently launched a new program I called Inner Pilot Light group coaching.  Launching this program was a big risk for me. Not only was it to be a live program, when all the other programs I’ve launched have been virtual, but it was a full-on spiritual program. No white coat to hide behind. No business coaching meant to help people earn more money that might lure in clients. Just me, my sermons, Inner Pilot Light wisdom, and a tribe of people who are trying, like me, to live in the light.

I was terrified, but thrilled beyond description. I can’t remember ever feeling so giddy about a launch. I literally didn’t sleep the night before.

Calling In The Clients

The day of the launch was a glorious, sunny day, the kind of summer day we only see in San Francisco after summer has officially ended. I marked the day by hiking early in the morning to the zen garden in Green Gulch Zen Center, where I performed a little ceremony to call in the people who would join me for this program. There were chimes. And drums. And incense. It was very “woo woo.”

Then, ritual performed, people called in, I went back to work, hoping the program would fill. By the time I got back from the zen center, four people had registered. I was hopeful.

But it was false hope.  The deadline for registrations came and went and only a handful of people signed up for the live program that would have accommodated up to 80 people in the sanctuary I had rented. A few more signed up to participate virtually, but not enough to make the program financially viable, given the hefty investment I would have to make in renting a space and hiring a videographer to stream the live event.

I was heartbroken. I had to write letters to the few people who had signed up for the program and break the news that I was cancelling the program. Yes, there were tears involved.

Have You Failed At Something That Mattered To You?

The emotions that ran through me when I realized the program had failed were complicated.  I felt disappointed. I felt embarrassed. I felt sad. I felt ashamed. I felt rejected. I questioned my worth. The Gremlin was going ballistic, chattering away with mean-spirited digs at my self-esteem. My ego (who I call Victoria Rochester) was hiding under the bed. I felt like I never wanted to launch another program again. In fact, maybe I should just stop blogging and go get a real job, one that doesn’t require me to take so many risks.

The downward spiral had begun.

Perhaps you’ve had something similar happen.  You put yourself out there on a limb.  You ask out the object of your affection.  You try to get a book published.  You share something vulnerable with a new friend. You launch a program. You apply to the most elite college.  You write a letter to the birth mother you’ve never met.

And then you fail. She says no. The publishers reject your book. The friend betrays you. The program bombs. The college sends you the skinny letter. Your birth mother doesn’t want to meet you.

If you’re not careful, the Gremlin can get so nasty you’ll wind up reluctant to ever take a risk again.  You erect walls. You avoid risk. You play it safe, because it hurts too much to fail.

But it doesn’t have to go down this way. Here’s how I handle situations like this.

Try letting your Gremlin go nuts. Then invite your Inner Pilot Light to tell you the truth.

My inner dialogue goes something like this.

The Showdown

The Gremlin:  Who did you think you were anyway, trying to pose as some spiritual teacher, when you’re just fumbling along like everyone else? No wonder nobody signed up. I wouldn’t trust you to guide me spiritually either.

Inner Pilot Light: Oh Gremlin, Gremlin, Gremlin… must you always be so unkind? Can’t you just be proud of her for trying something new, for following her heart, for being brave? So what if it didn’t work out? It’s not because she wouldn’t have done a good job leading people spiritually in her own fumbling way. Maybe it’s just not meant to be.

The Gremlin (plugging ears):  I can’t hear you Inner Pilot Light. Lissa, maybe you’ve had a few successes lately, but they were just flukes. This proves what you really know – that you’re not like those other people who did this kind of work. You’re not one of them.  You’re just some cheap wanna-be. If you were the real deal, people would have signed up.  You’re just a fraud. You should just go back to the hospital and deliver babies or perform surgeries. At least you’re a real doctor. That way you can earn some reliable money and take care of your family in a grown-up way, rather than trying to make a living with these pie-in-the-sky ideas.

Inner Pilot Light: Don’t listen, Lissa. It’s not true. Don’t take this personally. Remember, when things are meant to happen, they’re easy. They flow. The clients show up. You get signs that you’re on the right path. When it’s not easy, it’s not because you’re not valuable, it’s because you’re supposed to go left, when you wanted to go right. Or it’s because the timing isn’t right. Maybe you’re meant to launch this program next fall. Or maybe you’re supposed to be freed up this fall so you can work on your next book. I can’t say why people didn’t show up, but I can say this. Don’t let this fumble keep you from daring to dream, from taking risks, or from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.  Trust me, you’re valuable. You matter, whether or not people sign up for your programs.

Finding Peace After Disappointment

And just like that, I started to bounce back. As Brené Brown writes in her wonderful new book Daring Greatly, “Shame resilience is the ability to say ‘This hurts. This is disappointing, maybe even devastating. But success and recognition and approval are not the values that drive me. My value is courage and I was just courageous. You can move on, shame.”

You can move on, Gremlin. My value is courage. And I was just courageous. And I vow to keep being courageous, even if it means future failure and disappointment.

When I wrote to my friend and art mentor Nicholas Wilton and told him that my program had failed, he wrote this in response:

I have told myself, as well as my daughters growing up, that when faced with a missed cue, a setback when you’re used to winning, it’s an opportunity for remembering about humility. A little air letting out of the ego balloon is not a bad thing. It makes you a better listener, and it allows you to relate and help others when they come to you for support regarding the same kinds of let downs in their own lives.

A few days earlier, right after I got off stage speaking at a big conference, Nick had confessed his own failure to me. He had been paid to get up on stage and give a speech, and when he got up there, he realized that he had lost his speech notes.  Right there in the spotlight, every word he planned to say escaped him. He stood there in front of thousands of people in total silence for over five minutes before getting his act together and finding his voice. When he got off stage, the audience showered him with compassion. They realized that it takes guts to get up on stage in the first place, and they appreciated his bravery more than they judged his failure.

Nick is right.  Winning is not the goal. Sometimes the soul’s journey is to learn to fail well and to grow in compassion for others who face the inevitable disappointments in life.

And so, my friends, I decided to share this story with you. I don’t want you to think I’m perfect or that I always succeed. And I don’t expect that of you either. Within our imperfections and failures lies true intimacy, and I value that more.

So tell me, can you relate to my story? Have you tried and failed? Have you felt disappointed? Are you able to be kind to yourself when you do?

Bouncing back and feeling optimistic about whatever’s next,

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  1. playcrane

    Being on the outside looking in, this program sounds wonderful. I’m not sure I’d even call it a failure. Such a strong word when it just might be that it was external factors that you have no control over that affected the outcome of this whole thing.

    There are so many good programs out there and I for one can’t afford or have the time to embrace all the ones I’d like to participate in.

    Thanks for the good advice about handling disappointment.


  2. Ellen

    Hi Lissa –

    I’m one of your fans in Texas.

    I had to smile at the irony of your blog post. As a minister, I draw about 80 people to a sanctuary every Sunday morning. But I admire YOU (and I’m envious and compare myself to you!) for your strong online presence, your incredible mailing list, your savvy with technology, the way you have organized your life to do everything you do, and your just plain COURAGE in leaving medicine to pursue a spiritual path as your life’s work.

    What you are already doing is incredible and a service to the planet. Even if you don’t launch anything new from now on, you can still check the box that says “I made a difference.”


  3. Sabrina

    Hi Lissa,
    I guess I know how you feel. I took a gigantic leap of faith last year, when I got emotionally naked in front of the love of my life and told him how much I loved him. He bounced back. 🙁

    Long story short, I live in Vienna while he remained in Graz. 200km apart, this love that burns like fire inside my heart but no further contacts whatsoever. He doesn’t want to, I need to respect his wishes.

    Yet I sometimes think that I am past the major part of my heartbreak. Now I send him my love when I pray and when I see beauty I remember the light of his eyes, so green, like two emeralds.

    I know you’ll bounce back, you’re too good to be real. <3


  4. Amy Ahlers

    This is why you are so loved by your community and the world, Lissa. You share it all and let us in.

    You are brilliant.

    I adore you.

    I’m so proud of you for ALL you do!


  5. Susan

    Thank you soooooo much for sharing this today Lissa. I’ve launched my own coaching business, feel passionate about the work I’m doing and want to do, but hit my wall last night and today. I’m not succeeding the way I would like. It became even more clear as those pesky estimated taxes are due today, and as I tallied what small amount I owed because I haven’t made much, I thought “this is pathetic. You clearly are not making it. Maybe it is time to go get a ‘real’ job again”.

    Thank you for reminding me that at least I’m being courageous in my efforts. Many others would not have taken the path I have. Today shall pass as well.

    ~Susan 🙂

    • Neshika Bell

      Susan, I FEEL you.

      And I invite you to engage in an active inquiry: “What would it look like to be boundlessly courageous in showing up BIG?”

      I’m engaging in the same inquiry too. I launched my coaching practice about year and a half ago and I’m still not succeeding the way I would like. I know I have a calling to answer, but sometimes it feels bigger than me and then the terror and projected feelings of shame and embarrassment at “maybe” failing get so intense that I don’t feel I can move another step. It’s becoming clear to me that I’m not showing up enough to claim my calling. There’s a part of me that’s still playing small, while the part of me that wants to be bigger wrestles to rise up. I need to expand my sense of SELF to source the courage I need to really go out and impact the world the way I dream of doing.

      Lissa, your authenticity and openness to bare it all and let others in is a constant source of inspiration for me to keep digging, keep peeling back the layers and keep on this path to greatness. THANK YOU for the gift of you.

      Growing mySelf a little bigger everyday,
      x Neshika

  6. Angela

    I agree with you Jodi, Failure is such a strong word. But why do we let it have that strength? Lissa is one the very few people I’m aware of who has the courage and the honesty to talk about failure in general, and even more humbly, about her own. It’s like other powerful words with oppressive weight to them- those who bore the brunt of them claimed those words for themselves and took away a lot of the power those words held. Words like queer, alcoholic, and the god-forsaken “n” word are some that come to mind.
    Lissa why don’t you do another survey and find out why folks didn’t sign up? We are rooting for you, as you are for us.

  7. Anna

    I look forward to you Inner pilot light messages, and they are so helpful, thank you for them. This latest disappointment in your life is just a rock in the river of your life….and you are already flowing around and over it.
    You have great courage and many, many gifts and talents.
    I appreciate you.

  8. Antonia DeMichiel


    Hello from one of your #1 fans. I’m a 21 year-old senior in college, just doing my best to mindfully and wholeheartedly navigate the craziness of this time in my life. With every blog post, or every Inner Pilot Light message, I feel like you are speaking right to my soul. Thank you for your complete authenticity here – it’s a much needed reminder for me to stay on this path and not close my heart in the face of serial heartbreak.

    Lots of love and so much gratitude,

  9. Lissa Rankin, MD

    I know failure is a strong word. But I agree with you Angela- why dance around the word? Why attach such a charge to it? Why judge failure as something to be avoided?

    The way I see it, the program objectively failed. I would have lost money- as well as time and energy- if I went through with it, so as a business venture, no one would doubt that it failed.

    Does that mean I failed? No. It’s not personal. When my first book didn’t get published, I didn’t consider myself a failure. I just failed to get my book published. But I didn’t let that discourage me from putting myself out there again- and getting publishers for my next three books.

    I guess my motivation to write this post was to help us all normalize failure. If you’re not failing, chances are you’re not risking enough. Nobody succeeds 100% of the time.

    Are you brave enough to risk failure?

  10. Donna Workman

    As I read your message the first thought I had was maternal. I wanted to hold you until you were able to hold yourself, then I realized that your inner pilot was already doing that for you and for me. I am proud of your bravery, enthralled with your gift, and thankful for your words of encouragement and enlightenment.

    Upon reading about your new program, i was sad that I didn’t live close enough to participate and a little angry with myself that I didn’t sign up to be a virtual member. I love your gut wrenching honesty and your ability to walk us/you through letting oursleves off the hook. I look forward to your messages and get excited to see my Inner Pilot message.

    Thanks for reaching into me and helping me reach into myself. The first time I read one of your entries it ressonated with me. Thus, i answered and when you responded, I was hooked. You were real, reachable, and on the same wave length I am.

    Thanks for being who you are

  11. Sharon

    Dear Lissa,

    I admire your brave heart for the admissions of disappointment after a leak of faith. Just today I am resigning from a job I thought would fulfill my soul’s passion. It was not in alignment with others’ desires and the conflicts affected my well-being. Thus the resignation.

    I am dealing with yo-yo conversations, as you describe, with the Gremlin in my head and my Inner Pilot Light. I wrote out all of the gremlinese and beat the pavement with my anger, more than once. It is amazing how “Your Inner Pilot Light” message synchronizes with my needs most every day.

    I appreciate your daily gift to me, showing your vulnerable side as well as your courage. You are expressing much needed messages for our world. I regret that I have not been able to embrace all of your offerings.

    Blessed by your strength.

  12. rachel

    Thank you for sharing so authentically! I have come to recognize my fear of failing and how it holds me back from growth and flourishing in my life. I am on the brink of stretching myself lately to launch projects I have been holding back on for years….it feels like standing on the edge of a huge cliff. Sharing like you have, knowing who you are and how much I admire you makes me want to finally take that leap and be totally willing to trip and stumble. Thus far in my life I always manage to get up, dust myself off, wipe away the tears and keep going and this is what I need to remember. Gently making friends with that part of me that is scared and doing it anyway is my current path. I can’t know what amazing things can happen in my life if I am not willing to try. Thank you for once again being an inspiration!

  13. Mikelle

    I adore you and your fearless openness, Lissa! I may have joined the virtual part of the program but it is a financial issue with me right now. Sending you a big, loving cyberhug 🙂

  14. Jasmine (not Myra :P)

    Dear Lissa,

    I’m glad that you found opportunity in your (SMALL) failure; it truly takes a strong and persistant soul to be so optimistic. Finding optimism in failure reminds me of something I’ve recently written with a photo I posted on my instagram: “Persisting through the stains of old tears, is unwavering optimism and hope[…]”.(wish I had a better camera). I posted it with a picture of myself “looking to the sky”.

    My failure… is love–not loving myself or others, but romantic love. That’s a type of vulnerablility that isn’t practiced often enough to be automatically or quickly resilient to. I’ve been brutually hurt in that kind of love. And also, when given the opportunity to mend my wounds with another love, I smothered it with “my” expectations and desires, and I scared it away. (When I say “my” expectations, I mean others’ expectations like cohabitation, marriage, etc.; things that were engrained in me while growing up and after I experienced bad love.) My solution was to disconnect myself from anything I romantically desired or longed for, for about 6 months. I just “felt”… felt loved when opportunities presented themselves. I accepted ego-boosters like flirtation, compliments, and dating. Then, when I finally built myself up and loved myself again, I came across this wonderful opportunity to love again. It isn’t what I would call perfect, considering the circumstances, but I’ve gone back in with a open heart and mind. As you’ve written, giving them permission to break my heart. And though I hope for the best, I have no expectations, just acceptance. Acceptance of them, and the love I feel and receive whenever I hear their voice and feel their love; the most rewarding is their acceptance of me. Even though I know what I EVENTUALLY want, I would never impose that on them; however, I will always be sure to maintain my happiness.

    So, I have no clue what will or won’t happen in my love life, but I have a better view now that I’ve grown to love and respect myself.

    Have a great day :)!

  15. Avril

    Lissa, you MUST read ” SHAMAN, M.D.” by Eve Burce MD.” In it she shares the same struggles you are going through. She became a Shaman, and is a well respected PLASTIC SURGEON on the east coast–talk about dissimilar paths. She found the way to make it work for her. Perhaps you will find some answers here. You are not a failure, far from it. Messages are sent to us for our growth in many ways, and I think Victoria is stronger than she lets on.

  16. Lissa Rankin, MD

    Thank you all. Really.

    May we all be brave enough to risk failure.

    • Avril

      See what I mean?

  17. Linda Schaeffer

    Dear Lissa,

    I SO love your enthusiam and energy! And honesty!!! Can there be such a thing as false hope? I don’t think so. You don’t have to assign failure to what happened. It just is. In the future you may look back at it as a blessing and I know you will.

    The world needs people like you. Thank you for inspiring us.

    So grateful for your posts. You are a blessing to me.


    Linda Schaeffer

  18. Lissa Rankin, MD

    Good point Linda. Need we assign things that don’t work out as “failure?” I did, purely as a business measure. But when I look back at other “failures” in my life, such as my two divorces, I see them as great successes in teaching my soul what it needed to learn. I guess it’s all in your perspective…

  19. Jamie G. Dougherty

    Lissa, thank you so much for sharing your experience and being brave in your vulnerability. Never easy but certainly more satisfying. It always amazes me how quick we are to believe everything the “itty bitty sh*tty committee” aka Gremlin likes to throw our way. The big question I always ask is WHY. Why am I ashamed, why am I embarrassed, why am I SO attached to this particular outcome? From there I always ask, “What is the gift?” What is the larger lesson I’m meant to learn from this and use in all my future successes?

    Again, many thanks for the love, honesty and authenticity you continue to share.


  20. Fonda Haight

    Hey Lissa,
    I was so amazed when I read your email this morning. And then I said to myself, “wow! what a teaching”! I cannot recall ever having seen a spiritual teacher just put it all out there. We all know it happens…things don’t go as planned, there are failures and sidebars, how could it not? But I’ve never seen it put out there. I’m an artist and I understand putting it out there.

    So here’s my story.
    About seven months ago, I decided I should have an online site as an artist. I felt like I just wasn’t connecting with my tribe, and it was time for me to start speaking my truth. I read up on the whole process, paid for a couple of online classes about good blogging. Geared it all up and launched it.
    I write daily. I post my artwork daily. I have four people signed up to my blog…lol. The most visitors I’ve ever received is when I did a blog on the musical “Wicked”. I’m assuming people were looking for the actual play. So, my inner gremlin is basically having a heyday! But, I continue forward because now it’s something I look forward to…this writing to myself basically…lol. My family (who are the four who are signed up by the way) sound an awful lot like my inner gremlin and question the whole process.

    But I continue on. Because now I’m doing it for me. Because it’s what I know was the next step for me. I’ve decided that sometimes our “failures”…were still something we needed to do to get to the next step. To grow into that bright being that we are. Or who knows…just to learn how to use a blogging platform…lol

    • Emma

      I’ve just signed up to your blog! So that’s 5 for you.

      Nice pictures…

      All the best,


  21. Vonda

    Hi Lissa,

    I can’t THANK YOU enough for this blog post! I am just getting ready to post my photographs to a website called Zenfolio and hopefully launch a new career. I have been taking pictures for many many years (obviously it is my passion) but I have never had the “courage” to put them out in the public eye. The fear of “failure” has always loomed large in my mind (your Gremlin, as you call it). Reading your “inner pilot light ” message every morning has given me the strength to finally get out of my comfort zone and take some risks. When you personally shared your “failure” in launching your new program with your readers, I think you helped many of us look at ourselves and say maybe I can take some risks too, and not get discouraged. And no matter what the outcome, I can learn from this and move forward. I call that a success!! Best wishes and thanks again from Niagara Falls, NY


  22. Jessica

    Lissa, thank you for the honest post, again. The more real the subject (real as in ‘close to you’, it doesn’t have to be positive or negative) the better I imagine I can feel you through the words…
    As some others commented, I live too far away to join the program in person and virtual I had too much on my path at the moment as it is to focus on this – but I was wishing you all the best with it and I thought I would fill up quickly! You’ll find your way through as you are already doing AND sharing it with us.

    I connect more to one of the earlier posts right now, as this Saturday I ‘failed’ to keep my very much beloved doggie companion alive and happy for any longer. I learned about his heart-failure three months ago, saw -thank goodness- the evidence on X-ray and ultrasound and struggled my way through coping with the knowledge of losing him so soon. He was small, seven kilo’s and I ‘expected’ -while knowing in my heart too that you cannot be sure about anything-, I hoped that he would live to be 16 (80?) but he was nearly nine now.

    I have felt the last months that his way of being now had something to do with my own heart too, it has it’s dents and scrachtes and has been quite badly damaged in places… I worked in my own way on that, felt I could DO that on my own and while the wound is deep and fresh and I miss him like crazy, my own heart feels wonderfully wide open, sprarkling and whole, in a new way. I asked him about it (I’m daring myself to be courageous enough to be an animal communicator and in times of grief the connection comes the easiest…) and he said yesterday that my intention to heal, and my complete willingness to let him go made all the difference in the world. Wow.

    I’ll dent again, I’ll be scratched and bruised and battered but I feel SO much more secure in myself…. When I connect this to the topic of failure, I’m NOT failing anymore to love myself, to see myself in the full light I can stand in. Hooray!

    A virtual hug from across the ocean dear, and I look forward to hear how you’ll find your way and how you’ll think of new ways to be together with your chosen group….


    • Jessica

      that big, big virtual hug you sent as pilot light out across to everybody toady?? I just got home with Floris’ his ashes when I read it. soooooooo right!

  23. Jessica

    Dear Lissa,
    Congratulations on taking the risk and stting with the feelings when things don’t go as planned. Setbacks deepen our experience and that informs how we teach the next time, and the next time. What I wanted to say in particular to you is that I love my inner pilot light daily emails and I’m sure you will move forward on your plans. I’ll share one experience I had that may resonate with you:

    I knew a woman who was a spiritual teacher. She said and channeled some profoundly amazing and loving energies. I follwered her from city to city as she set up speaking engagements. I got to know her and about her family. This teacher was doing some pretty screwed up things to her children while undertaking her calling and I was beginning to doubt her. “How can someone who is teaching such high-level spiritual wisdom be so wounding as a mother?” I sat in meditation on the question for several days and one day I got this answer from what I believe is a higher source: “If I have to wait for the teacher to be perfect to share my message with you, it will never get out there.”

    It was that understanding that helped me to give myself permission to teach and share and move forward. I will never be perfect and no teacher will ever be perfect and if we sit around and wait for ourselves to be perfect, to do everything perfectly, to succeed in every step on the path, then the message will never get out there.

    So get the message out there Lissa. Do what you love and we will all be there for you. This is a recession remember and an election year and there are many astrological events of importance taking place right now. Go with the flow, trust and love yourself and it will all make sense later.

    Big Berkshire Hugs,

  24. Ms Caitlin B. Casement

    Thank you for being brave enough to talk about your feelings of failure. I struggle every day with with that Gremlin–and you’ve given me so much more power in my conversations with him with your Inner Pilot Light emails. Sometimes it feels silly, telling myself good things, being self-loving. But, when I recently had a terrible humiliation–akin to an emotional rape (at the very hospital where I had been admitted for a major depression that had made me desperate to hurt myself)–the fact that I had learned to love myself, not in a passive way, but actively with actions and words, helped me to avert another major depressive episode. My therapist, who sees the world in the same way you do Lissa, called me the day after I walked into his office sobbing to tell me that the doctor who had orchestrated my humiliation had given me a gift. I knew exactly what he meant–by surviving the incident and then using it to grow further, it made me so much stronger than I thought I could ever be. But what I really loved best about that call was that my therapist trusted me to understand that. Remember that you’ve started a wonderful thing here. Remember you have nothing to prove. Just by being you, that’s enough.

  25. Ingrid Arna

    I just wrote a post about this Lissa that I would love to share with you. I might email it. I really believe these “No’s” from life are really big fat juicy “yes’s” if we heed the gift and beauty of them. I love that you’re vulnerable. I had a video course recently that I cancelled because I decided that I actually had more pressing things to do in my business. It felt fabulously abundant and then I got thousands of dollars of production work to replace it. Also with my book, I got so many rejections but I just have a giggle to myself…. I know that I am divinely taken care of and the message I received was “it’s the wrong time” so I took a step back, did some more work on it and now all sorts of wonderful interest is coming in. I also feel strongly about something to do with this course but I am not going to write it here.

    LOVE Ingrid. Much Bodylove, Beauty and Bliss Baby, ING xxx

  26. Wendy Byford

    “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”–Alexander Graham Bell

    The thing that always puts things in perspective for me is remembering if something fails it is because the Universe has something even better in store so I can’t spend time on the small stuff.

  27. Bethany Butzer

    Fantastic blog, Lissa! I have also run programs in the past that didn’t fill up, and it can be so disappointing. But I can always see, in hindsight, why the programs didn’t fly. And it was always a learning experience. Thank-you so much for sharing your vulnerability with us!

  28. Mary

    Be gentle with yourself…
    You are trying too hard.
    It will ALL come as it was meant to.
    Love and Cherish you,

  29. cher cox

    Sweet Lissa,

    Your blogs have pricked my heart for a while now…but this one stung. In a nutshell, I think I’ve let fear steal my dreams. I broke my foot in January & was forced to do some heavy duty soul searching. I had abandoned my dream of having a cozy little coffeehouse a couple years ago. I love hurting people & so wanted a place where the “outcasts” could hang out & feel loved. So…with the coffeehouse dream cooling on the back burner, I decided to become a certified life coach in February.

    I had very high expectations of coaching others while in turn continuing to coach myself. I live in a backwards, unprogressive city where not many even know what a life coach is, so it hasn’t taken off. So, in my fearful “what the heck do I have to show for my life at age 50” question, I made the decision to change my career & be “safe” in a steady job. So I became a licensed insurance agent 2 months ago.

    I turned 50 last month & I thought I would feel fulfilled in my “safe” new career. Pffftttttt!! The emptiness is now settling into obvious remorse. When I read your blog, it hit me hard. I’ve seen my share of failure…but I’m seeing this go past just failure into regret. But what I took from your blog is that I can still thrive from my failure!!

    Thank you Lissa for reminding me that it’s ok to fail because it opens our eyes to others who need to hear our story!! In this life, it’s not only about ourselves. We are created to intertwine our lives with others! To share hope & hurting! To let go while we hang on to each other! To wipe away others tears as our own tears fall down our cheeks! To love with abandon as our own hearts ache in brokenness!

    I am comforted hearing your story. Thank you for showing such vulnerability. ❤

  30. carla


    You have once again astounded me with your brilliant laser-bright insight. I am feeling after reading your post that one of life’s major needs is courage in vulnerability. Instead of affecting a dismissive reaction to a disappointment you have shown me that to enrich my life with new deeper understanding I need to be brave and risk failure And if I do fail, be brave in vulnerability, feel it, look at it, then realize that I am not a failure as a human being but rather I am a person who LIVES, TRIES, DREAMS, RISKS.

    I am becoming more like the person above described thanks to your sharing unflinchingly with us, your fascinating journey full of joy, fear, courage, sorrow and success.

    I am an artist and a singer and have been held back by fear of failure most of my life, but I have taken boldness and bravery as my new way of being and my modus operandi. No matter what the upshot of any of my attempts, there will be marvelous things to learn and I will not die because things did not go my way.

    I am grateful for your gifts of thought and feeling in your posts!!!


  31. Heather

    It kinda breaks my heart to read some of your Gremlin comments (although I am familiar with my own and I get it) But I say that because IMHO you are absolutely a spiritual teacher. I am myself feeling like I am finally finding my truth and at the beginning of what is probably going to be a pretty amazing & scary journey and I want to let you know that YOU and YOUR words are such an incredible guide for me.

    Inner Pilot Light is TRULY inspirational, I have recommended it to many people. As are your emails and Owning Pink. I am grateful and thankful that I found you and want you to know that I would have LOVED to do your Inner Pilot Light Coaching group (unfortunately I am on the wrong coast) and if I had the money would have definitely joined virtually. It was only a current less than stellar financial situation stopping me. And it wasn’t without heartache that I decided I couldn’t join at this time. It was all me. Nothing to do with you!

    What little I know of you is wonderful, amazing and inspirational! I can only imagine the grandness of all of you!


  32. Aradia

    I started my business official in 09, I knew from the age of 6 I wanted to do some of what I do now. And yet despite all that clarity I’ve had my Gremlin & even actually people I know shoot down my dream. I kept going, but passively. So passively that even when I took the plunge I never really made it. I had some small successes, but not enough to break the bank, to build a following, or anything like that. But over the last few months the struggle has eased. I’ve seen opportunity after opportunity open up unexpectedly and in way I wouldn’t have imagined. Even with this the Gremlin prances around with his sign reading, “Failure” pushing it into my face. I get claustrophobic with this specter and then I start to chime in, letting my Inner Mean Girls get the better of me. So even when things seem to go your way, that voice doesn’t necessarily go away you just learn to deal with it.

    Failure is success dressed up in different clothes.

  33. Nanette Saylor

    Thank you for sharing this very personal disappointment in such a public way, and allowing us all to be reminded of this important life lesson.
    Being who we have been called to be takes courage — every minute of every day.
    We’re not perfect. Life isn’t always grand. And sometimes things don’t work out like we planned.
    Yet, we keep going.
    Because we can and we must.
    Somewhere inside we know everything is playing out exactly as it should be.
    You were meant to have this experience, then share your strength. And, I was meant to read it, be lifted up by your message, and then share my story with you.
    Yes, I’ve had nearly the exact experience. I created a mini-retreat based on everything my audience had told me they wanted, and designed what I thought was the perfect day.
    Then, I pushed through my selling resistance, and I marketed it more effectively than I’ve ever marketed anything.
    Like you, I didn’t get enough sign ups to hold the event.
    Many women contacted me to tell me they wished they could come, but…
    The bottom line was they didn’t sign up. Nor did their friends.
    And I was crushed.
    And I cried.
    Now six months later, I can look back with a smile, recalling the outcome to write this reply.
    One of the two women who did sign up, who was not on my list, nor had I ever met previously, became a private client who just renewed her agreement with me for another 6 months. More importantly, through our work together she has “birthed” a collection of artwork that has been award winning and there’s more to come.
    And, it looks like we will be collaborating on a future women’s retreat (even if I’m a little gun-shy still when I’m really honest with myself).
    So, yes, I believe everything happens for a reason.
    Since I, too, have a gremlin I call “Fearsome Freddie”, I also need to be reminded every now and then how to encourage him to play elsewhere– and your story certainly did that.
    Most importantly, it’s always nice to know I’m not alone.
    And neither are you.
    Maybe there’s a collaboration just waiting to be born for you, too?
    Thank you for being such an inspiration!
    Wishing you well–

  34. Michelle Medina

    Hugest of hugs Lissa!!! Keep on rockin’ Sister!!!

  35. Andrea

    Hi Lissa,
    Just this morning I was trying to find a way to contact you to see if there was any way I could join your coaching program…I knew that I was beyond the deadline…I had been mulling it over for days…wanting to join in what seemed like an amazing opportunity (especially since it was happening close by) but the cost had made me hesitate…not that it wasn’t worth every penny but because I am needing to be careful with my expenses and was worried that perhaps I was too old for the group (in my 50’s). Then I found your blog about the program “failing.” I’m so sorry to hear that. And, thank you for sharing your experience so honestly…I have lived a similar experience myself…and have only half heartedly recovered from the bruising…hearing your experience gives me more courage to pick myself up and put myself out there again. Thank you for such a gift!

  36. Lissa Rankin, MD

    Bless you all for your sweet support and for sharing your own stories so transparently.

    I have read and witness and appreciate every one of you.
    With love

  37. Julie

    Dear Lissa,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have experienced exactly this same sort of failure and disappointment. At the time, it was crushing and I didn’t understand it as well as I would now — and as well as you went through it in your post here. Yes, it is the soul’s journey to stretch like this and, no, it’s not about winning. There are two poems that speak beautifully to this – “The Man Watching” by Rilke and “Failure” by Rafael Cadenas. Rather than posting them here (both are pretty long), I’ll just snip from the Rilke. But do look them up, if you’re not familiar — they are GEMS!! (Cadenas writes of failure as a sort of guardian angel protecting us from wants that are too small or ego-bound.) Here’s the last three stanzas from Rilke’s magnificent poem:

    What we choose to fight is so tiny!
    What fights us is so great!
    If only we would let ourselves be dominated
    as things do by some immense storm,
    we would become strong too, and not need names.

    When we win it’s with small things,
    and the triumph itself makes us small.
    What is extraordinary and eternal
    does not want to be bent by us.
    I mean the Angel who appeared
    to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
    when the wrestler’s sinews
    grew long like metal strings,
    he felt them under his fingers
    like chords of deep music.

    Whoever was beaten by this Angel
    (who often simply declined the fight)
    went away proud and strengthened
    and great from that harsh hand,
    that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
    Winning does not tempt that man.
    This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
    by constantly greater beings.

  38. Kerstin

    Hi Lissa,

    I just took the time to read your post and really want to thank you for sharing this. It was exactly what I need to hear and read right now. It is so difficult to bring up the courage to make the leap and live your dream and to start something new. Your story shows me that it is ok to not succeed and the lesson to be learnt lies exactly in the not-succeeding. I still didn’t bring up the courage for the final leap…
    Thanks for being so honest with us.


  39. Suzy Carroll

    It was the image of the sailboat aground that grabbed me and spun me back 40 some years to my first lesson in failure. Not my failure, but my dads for running our sailboat up on rocks. The rocks where in a harbor he was attempting to quietly sail out of and not wake his sleeping daughter up (me).

    The day he ran us aground was the beginning of a huge sail boat race. We sat on those rocks as sailor after sailor puttered by yelling, “we’ve been there” and me hearing my first lesson in making lemonade out of lemons. My dads response to it all, “no better time to clean the bottom of the boat, than when your stuck on rocks”. As the tide went out, that’s what we did – scrubbed away and then sailed away! A wonderful memory and lesson that has stayed with me through decades of ups and downs and also a reminder that for every failure, someone else has done the same thing as well.

    Speaking our truth – we are all in this together! xo

  40. Annelies

    Dear Lissa,
    You’re so human and strong and vulnerable sharing your story above! And since you’re a fan of Brene Brown as well you might know her quote from daring greatly
    t is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

    And that’s you! The (wo)man in the arena!

  41. Cheryl

    Bless your heart Lissa for everything that you do to better our lives. This endeavor may not have panned out, but I loved your explanation as to how you felt about it all, and what you took from the experience. I have to tell you that I check my email every day just because I know there will be a Daily Flame message awaiting me, and it always makes my heart smile. I love myself more because of you.

  42. Carol Thompson

    Hi Lissa,

    I am grateful to you that 1) you offered the opportunity to all of us, and 2) you shared your story about the emotional plunge you took when the anticipated enrollments failed to materialize.

    I am one of those who signed up for the live event — It was a bit impulsive, because at that very moment that I hit my “submit” payment, I knew that it was probably not the best moment for me to spend the money on a “non-essential” item for which there were no funds set aside. In fact, I had immediate buyers’ remorse after doing my banking that morning and realizing I was going to be short for the next week. I even mentioned to my husband that I would try to cancel it, because I knew the timing was not so great. But then, I did nothing. Because I just wanted to immerse myself in what you were offering — not even knowing if it would feel “right” for me. Yeah, I know, not a good financial practice, but awareness is the first step…

    The funny thing is, when you revealed the planned location of the event, I had to adjust my thinking! Going to the East Bay in the evening! with Traffic! Why, oh Why couldn’t I have been lucky and simply been able to stay in Marin for this! And then, I said to myself, It’s really no big deal. It would be fine, I might even make peace with evening traffic. Hah!

    So, is it okay to tell you I am relieved that you cancelled this event? I do hope when the timing is right, you will try it again. Maybe scaled down. Maybe here in Marin!. Maybe when I can sign up with not a bit of doubt– nor guilt about financial irresponsibility!

    In the end, you gave me the most valuable gift: You shared your own frailty. For someone like me who always fights the belief that I am less-than the person next to me who is PERFECT in their successes, your honesty is a powerful reminder to me. Yes, you enjoy successes and have accomplished much, but accomplishments do not erase all doubts about our worthiness. We all fight our gremlins. Sometimes its just that some of us are slower to hold them down long enough to shine brighter than we have allowed ourselves to shine. Sometimes its about reaching without the safety net of certainty, because the truth is, there is none. All we can do is fly, and sometimes, we flop. And hopefully, not sustain permanent damage to our egos, so that we can pick ourselves up and try again. But you know all this! So ’nuff said!

    With gratitude.

  43. Lissa Rankin, MD

    I swear honey- if the Universe gives me the green light- we’ll definitely do this sometime! I’m glad you feel relieved- thanks for your honesty. And thanks for trusting me and the process.
    Much love

  44. Lissa Rankin, MD


    With love

  45. Sally Bennett

    Thank you Lissa, for sharing your journey with us. We can all relate in some way to your feelings of failure. But just because you had “feelings” of failure, doesn’t mean you failed, just that that particular project didn’t work out. I am a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, and I struggle every day with feelings of failure and rejection by my family. They let me know about incidents they did not like when growing up, and express hostility toward me at times. I feel like a horrible person most of the time. They are the most important people in my life. Also, recently, I wrote a gracious note to a person who had lost a loved one, and expressed my support for her, but somehow, that has totally backfired, and I can’t figure out how and why. Sometimes, life goes along relatively smoothly, then out of the blue, negatives begin coming and seem to spiral for a while. Is this a normal pattern of life?

  46. Emma

    Thanks to everyone for all these comments. Lissa’s post was very pertinent to me at the moment – yesterday morning I woke up crying and, when my partner asked me what was the matter, I found myself saying, ‘I just don’t like myself very much at the moment.’ He reminded me that he liked me very much! We had a chat and I had to admit that I felt rather envious of him as his career really seems to be taking off at the moment, whilst mine seems to be – well – stagnating a bit. I find it hard to be positive about the start of autumn, which always feels like the dying of the year, and then in early September I fell over and my face was cut quite badly – I’m finding the scarring quite hard to come to terms with. My much-loved grandmother died in late September and I’m missing her badly, even though I know logically she was 93 and had Alzheimer’s. (It’s like someone was cuddling you for a long time, then they moved away from you and the place they were feels suddenly cold.) It feels especially frustrating because, this year, I’d decided it was time to stop hiding lights under bushels and just go for everything – jobs, projects, competitions- and just see what happens. My strike rate has been depressingly low. I’ve been finding it hard not to feel ashamed and slightly paranoid.

    I remember reading about The Inner Pilot Light course. I really wanted to do it but I’m in Britain and also absolutely and quite terrifyingly strapped for cash (another reason for my current self-loathing). Like so many others, I love getting the Inner Pilot Light emails – marvellous love letters. On the day my grandmother died, the email ended with:

    ‘Ten years from now, I promise you’ll look back, like a fond grandmother, and smile a knowing smile…

    Like a wise, loving granny,

    Your Inner Pilot Light’


    It really helps to read what everyone’s written here. It’s sad to hear of others’ sorrow and self-doubt, but heartening to hear how they’ve managed to turn things around for themselves. Perhaps we’re all ‘wounded healers’, and it’s the experiences that make us question ourselves that ultimately earn us the right to help others.

    Sorry this is a bit depressing! I wanted to say really that I send love, hope and support to you all.

    Trying to keep my heart cracked-wide-open,


  47. Cristina Wilkinson

    Dear Lissa,
    I’m just reading this now – it seems a year after everyone else. But it could not be a more apt time for me. And thank you for the comfort you have made me feel in just your honest words.
    I had a similar situation to you, for my business I put all my eggs in one basket and when that fell through I felt like I had failed, not only the business, me but also everyone who had believed in me. Now i’m at a juncture of how to move it forward, regain the same passion I started it with and grow it to a position where it’s viable – that is my dream!
    So for now I guess chin up and carry on striving!
    With gratitude,


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