Eraser Magic: A Lesson In Failure


Yesterday I called my eleven-year old niece, Aisalynn, to wish her a happy birthday. My favorite pre-teen responded by telling me she really needed the eraser. Go figure. I sent a gift certificate to her favorite store, a book (my continuous agenda is encouraging reading) along with some silly, sparkly fake nails and a huge eraser shaped like a birthday cake. Who would have guessed the eraser was the biggest hit?

Later that day it occurred to me an eraser is a “must have” tool for a 5th grader. Those soft pink beveled erasers came in handy when you messed up on a math problem, misspelled a word or had to remove the boy’s name you had a crush on before your dad noticed it artfully displayed across your spelling notebook. I smiled wondering was an Aidan, a Caleb or a Connor Aisalynn’s crush of the week?

notebook paper with little girl

Whether it’s a blunder on a math test or bombing a job interview, mistakes happen. When you cannot erase away the actual evidence of a misstep, you can own it and profit from the experience.

In my book, mistakes are as natural as breathing. The late, great coach John Wooden put it this way: “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing anything. A doer makes mistakes.”

Certainly mistakes range in severity. Some errors are mere speed bumps encountered on the road to success.

Success road

Others, like business bankruptcy, create noticeable failure but whatever the blunder, recovery is possible. Need proof? Walt Disney declared bankruptcy in 1923 when he couldn’t cover his studio’s overhead. Five years later he created a character named Mickey Mouse, and  you know the rest of the story.

Making a “do over” successful requires passion. Need an example? Check out your condiment shelf. When H.J. Heinz was 25, he founded a company that made horseradish. The firm tanked in 1875. Not one to quit, Henry John reorganized and launched a new ketchup producing venture. Fun fact: Heinz now sells 640 million bottles of its iconic Ketchup every year.

You can find the magic in making mistakes by considering the flip side. Analyze that failure and list the lessons learned. Change the nomenclature and think of a blunder as Henry J. Kaiser describes it, “an opportunity in work clothes.”


Thought For the Week:

If someone buys me an eraser for my birthday, I think I’ll leave it on my desk as a reminder that failure

eraser and word mistakes

is a gift called experience.

Bouncing Back After Going Down Swinging

Back view of business woman with boxing gloves on a white

As a career coach I encounter clients who are down on the mat and often temporarily out for the count. Many have lost their jobs based on corporate restructurings; others experienced a bad break due to personal relationships, business ventures or other significant life zingers. At one time or another, each of us has experienced a severe left jab or even a devastating one-two combination.

English Bulldog dog eye contact, closeup


When you find yourself dazed from a blow you never anticipated, there is nothing left to do but plan your comeback. Begin by acknowledging it might have been unfair, but it happened and it’s okay to admit how much it hurt. Throw yourself a pity party but keep it brief and then crash your own party by employing some techniques to help you bounce back.

Review the circumstances and challenge yourself to find one positive nugget in the mix. There is always something constructive to be gained from a negative situation. If you are coming up blank, talk to a trusted friend or advisor to help you glean a glimpse of that silver lining.

Know your situation is temporary. You have the ability to work through the crisis. Boxing legend Muhammed Ali carved out his amazing career by never giving up on himself. Ali said, “It’s a lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges and I believe in myself.”   To bounce back you must be self-reliant.


Regain your footing by asking for support. Don’t try to go it alone. Engage your network. You can never have enough cheerleaders. Let your friends provide help and encouragement to boost your morale. Positive reinforcement from positive people around you enables you to start rebuilding or reinventing your life.

Think about it. Now may be an ideal time to start fresh in a new direction. If you lost your job, perhaps you realized it wasn’t the best match for you anyway. Define your passion. What kind of a career or position would make your heart sing? Get curious. Do some soul searching and research. Then come up with an action plan and set some short-term and future goals.

Whatever it was that brought you down, the wrong Price Charming

Cute Monster King with white panel

or the dreaded pink slip, making a comeback begins with the first step. Once you initiate that move away from ground zero the remainder of the journey is pure momentum. Go for it. You are ready to power through any obstacles and show the world you are a resilient winner who, armed with a new plan, can go the distance.

Keep Calm and Ever Onward

Happy teen girl  jumping on the beach
The other day I received an email from my very wise friend LaDonna. She stated she owns a ring she wears daily inscribed with the words “siempre adelante,” which means always forward. The ring reminds my friend to “accept life’s inevitable disappointments and changes.” This is a lesson worth remembering. Immediately I created a “siempre adelante” sign and hung it on my vision board.

LaDonna’s communication contained two important concepts. First, being cognizant of the fact that from time to time trouble is going to waltz through our lives totally uninvited. Life excels at keeping us on our toes. We get comfortable cruising along experiencing smooth sailing,
woman staying on sailboat
and then a totally unexpected event occurs to churn the still waters. You know the drill. Disappointment, stress and even a bit of panic might occur when the wind blows our sails in the wrong direction. It’s normal to feel deflated like a rapidly leaking lifeboat. But then what?

My advice begins with not burying your head in the sand. Spending time in denial is futile. There is a quote attributed to Elvis Presley putting setbacks in perspective. “Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t going way.” Accept the reality of the situation. The fact is, it happened, it’s real and it requires a solution. Own it.

Here’s another scenario to avoid. Do not let your emotions rule. Wallowing in anger and worry serves only to zap your energy reserves. Spending time doing the “poor me” moan to anyone with a listening ear is time wasted. Whatever it is, a speeding ticket, a broken relationship, a job loss, or a bad investment, take action and attack the problem. Need help on where to begin? Try rewinding a bit, and take comfort in the past. Surely you have faced downturns before and found a way to soldier on. Once you have regained your confidence, get focused and tap into your creativity. Start brainstorming a way to get back in the game.

Siempre adelante is the second concept in the equation. Engage in some positive thinking. Just as you can rewind to past achievements you can fast-forward to brighter times. Take a breath and imagine your relief when you’ve solved the problem. Next, build up some momentum by putting one foot in front of the other and work your action plan. Where will that take you? In the right direction, onwards, ever onwards!