A Story Takes on the Stigma of Entrepreneurial Failure


When my daughter was in public school, she struggled with tests–which was a constant source of pain for her. I continually pointed out to her that she could not give her power away to a system that made up arbitrary rules about intelligence—and, that had, indeed, little intelligence itself. But this never penetrated. The stigma around failing is so effectively baked into our culture’s nervous system that it has not been rooted out of her.

I venture to say that goes for the rest of us, as well.

Last fall, I read multiple books by Silicon Valley stars. I wanted to see how, as I think of it, the “other continent of entrepreneurs” is raised. (Our continent being the one of internet marketing and coaching/consulting.)

The philosophy prevalent in Silicon Valley affected me. I’m sure you know their motto–which has been criticized, but that nevertheless has inarguable wisdom in it: Fail fast, fail often, fail forward.

They are—if not always succeeding, at the least attempting to create a culture where shame of failure is replaced by pride in failure. It is encouraged! Why? Because their position is that those who fail to do something bold will one day succeed at doing something bold.

At the end of this reading marathon, (The Lean StartUp by Eric Ries; Getting to Plan B by John Mullins and Randy Komisar; Bold by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler; Zero to One by Peter Thiel), I emerged from the waters that tech entrepreneurs swim in every day…healed in some way. They have constructed an alternative universe with new rules work that work for them (as far as I can know, as an outsider)—and that can work for us all.

It is not a Silicon Valley philosophy. It is universal wisdom. They have simply been bold enough to put it into practice.

If they can do it, we, too, can remove ourselves from the childish system in which we’ve been raised, which demonizes mistakes, and reach instead for a reality based on a truer paradigm that has space and enthusiasm for failure.

With those books metabolized within me, many tributaries began to converge. I thought of all of the clients who come to me, tattered and worn because the system told them what to do to succeed, but still, they struggle. And worse than any financial concerns they have, they carry shame over the failures because, according to the system, success is easy. They’re left with no other perception but that something is wrong with them that it has not been.

I was delighted to see Eric Ries put a name to this nefarious system, calling it the “mythmaking industry”—and I was surprised to find that Silicon Valley has it, too. But, oh, how pervasive it is in the coaching/ consulting/internet marketing industry! Every day the vulnerable become prey to their puffed-up claims.

And that’s when an idea for a fable-novella was born whose central theme would be about the stigma of failure and its twin, shame—and whose key solution to business struggle would be its banishment, tapping into some of what Silicon Valley teaches, as well as much that I do.

wolfleavesthepackOver the next six months, the story unfolded of a lone wolf named Wolf, who leaves The Pack and Status Quo County to make a dent in the universe. It is a classic hero’s journey of trials and tests, fear and second-guessing; wisdom and triumph over the enemy—and the final “return,” where transformation is realized and shared with others.

I wrote The Tale of Wolf, His Snake Oil and a Skunk specifically for our “continent of entrepreneurs,” who are prey to our particular mentoring industry and too often do not achieve its promises. Who have a great idea, but discover it doesn’t “just sell itself”; who have more passion than there are stars, but the money does not follow. Who work hard yet still struggle. And worst of all, who never give up. (The story explains why that is the worst myth of them all.)

I also wrote this for my daughter, whose world-view I seek to shatter every time I text her, “How did you fail today?” Then, congratulate her heartily for whatever her response.

And I wrote it for myself because I am much too hard on myself for even the slightest so-called failure. Among having other missions, I want to help create a new world where failure is exalted because it is the sign of daring heart and mind, and where shame is vanquished by a new strength of Self. This is when we will know we live in a society of true strength.

It begins with Wolf, His Snake Oil and a Skunk, which will be available soon—in a very unique form. Stay tuned for more details!


How I Came to My Senses After a Fainting Spell and 2 Shady Mechanics

So, I fainted in Target on Sunday. Out of the blue.
And no, it wasn’t because of the great sales. In fact,
they say it was dehydration, but whatever it was, it
was scary. I had the oddest symptoms for about an
hour before I crumpled in a heap somewhere between
kitchenware and bedding. I found out it was due to
loss of oxygen to my brain; apparently we traverse
weird territory without our requisite O2—and for
sure, I thought I was going crazy. Then, without
warning, boom, a man’s kneeling over me,
asking if I know why I fell.
“I didn’t even know
I DID fall,” I answer, groggily looking from left to
right. Soon, I was surrounded by paramedics, police
officers and Target managers bracing themselves for
a lawsuit. Because I hit my head very hard on (something;
no one knows because there were no witnesses—but,
man, does that bump still hurt!) I was escorted onto
a hard, orange plastic gurney and fit cozily with a

neck brace. Off we went, sirens wailing, to the hospital
for tests.

It turned out that every blasted test came back normal
—which is what one typically strives for, I know—but
when you’ve interrupted your family members’ lives,
not to  mention your own all-important shopping
spree, you want something to explain the hours in
the ER. But, alas, I was diagnosed with syncope
otherwise known as fainting—and released to my
own recognizance. Such as it is.

As I was reclining back at home, my ex and signifi-
cant other took my VW to the dealership to have
them resolve an odd sluggishness I’d been experi-
encing. After sleeping eleven hours that night, (and
not one of them on my left-hand side because of
the massive bulb on the side of my head), I headed
over to the dealership to await my car’s release. And
that’s when I got the female treatment. I’ll spare
you the details, but suffice it to say there was some
unmistakable shady activity going on. Ten minutes
after I declined a $400 additional service, I was told
that the issue had, remarkably, “disappeared.” All was
fine. Then, a moment later, they came back to say
that they had a used part in stock from another car

and could slip that in to replace my faulty one. Had
I gone ahead and accepted the $400 job, do you
think I would have been told of the free used
? Or that the issue had miraculously disappeared?

I’ve been feeling increasing disgust over the corruption
and secrets
so prevalent in our world today—not

just on Wall Street, and in government; Big Business,
“corporate media,” our religious institutions, etc.—
but also in “small business”: the shallow and greed-
based antics playing out in internet marketing
every da
y. Having my own mechanics try to shaft
me was a tipping point for me and I decided to make
some changes in my own business. I have always
been honest and trustworthy as a business owner,
but I was following many of the Internet Information
Gurus—and this week, I unsubscribed from a vast
majority of them
. I decided they’re too slick and
phony for me; they’re the “Internet Hollywood Scene.”
The few hours in the ER, not knowing what was wrong
with me, plus the massive knock to my head, brought
me to my senses:
I’m “leaving the pack,” “escaping
the wannabees
” once again, no longer aspiring to
rub elbows with them, proverbially “sleep with them”
to get to the next level, attend their parties or adapt
their business-building strategies. (Which are, on
another note, entirely cookie-cutter, have you noticed?)

I don’t want to make money by gouging other people
of their hard-earned money. (And I never have.) Isn’t
that what the banks do? I don’t want to make money
by hosting a seminar that’s really a pitch-fest. I believe
that’s called bait-and-switch. I don’t want to make
money from obscenely inflated home-study products
or memberships. And I don’t want to tell my daughter
I made money following. Inspired Leaders don’t
, they lead through inspiration. I got seduced
by the glitter and glam—but now know that all that
glitters is not gold.

I have created a questionnaire over at Survey
, to see if my own experience reflects the
“zeitgeist,” the energy in the culture right now, about
slick, internet information marketing. You know
–the guys and women making millions of dollars on
$20,000 – $100,000 yearly memberships, claiming
they can “teach” (ha!) and “coach” (ha!). Have
you had it, too? Do they feel like shallow, slick, plastic
Hollywood types? Do you want to learn from a different
type of leader? If so, what type?

I promise to share the comments from your
peers in an upcoming blog.

By the way, in case you’re wondering: I’m doing fine…
except for the nasty bump and the bruises on my
leg and knee. I’ll be going to a cardiologist for a
“table test,” just to ensure that I don’t have a
propensity for losing oxygen to the brain. But I expect
everything to come out normal. After all, I’m still
young! In fact, the best part of the whole experience
was my daughter grumbling to me as we sat in my
ER room: “Everyone’s asking me if you’re my

It was all worth it for that!

click here to take my “Have You Had It With
The Internet
Hollywood Scene?” survey.

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