Friday, October 28, 2011

Tiffany Colter: What I’ve learned from Failure?

by Anita Mae Draper

I would like to introduce Tiffany Colter who as a speaker and business consultant, speaks to people of all walks of life and not just writers although she's the owner of the Writing Career Coach. She sounds like a successful business woman - and she is. But I've cried each time I've watched the video (below) of her journey to this point in her life. Please welcome Tiffany for sharing with us today...

What I’ve learned from Failure?
by Tiffany Colter

Wow, that’s pretty odd for a title, don’t you think?

It was very hard for me to write too. Anyone who knows me or has heard me speak knows that I don’t burn my candle at both ends…oh, no. That is far too slow. I just chuck the entire candle in to the flames and watch it all flash up at once. That is far more efficient. Laugh. Burnout all at once.

I realize that most of you reading this aren’t writers and so talking about writing isn’t helpful. That’s fine. As my company, Writing Career Coach, has grown to include more speaking, and business coaching I find that I’m becoming less and less of a writer too. As an introverted person I’m having to learn how to mingle in rooms of people and cold call sales prospects. I think I passed my comfort zone about 3 states ago. Many days I wake up nervous and feeling like I’m failing in one area or another.

Sometimes I feel like I’m not a great mom. Sometimes I want to be a better wife. Then I wonder if my parents and grandparents and siblings actually think I care at all. There are mornings I have emails from clients asking the status on a project and I’m racked with guilt because—although not due yet—I’m behind on my own timeline. I look at my blog and I realize I haven’t been posting as I should.

The list of things I’m not doing up to my own standards can go on…and on…and on…

Usually these things are self-inflicted guilt trips where I haven’t actually messed up to others, I’ve only failed to reach my own unreasonable expectations.

Then there are times where I really blow it. I fail. I mess up. I fall short.

I was nearly a straight A student in College (in the Honors College of my university no less). I believed that near perfection would insulate me from pain. I was rewarded with accolades, awards, recognition from the professors, invitations to exclusive events, scholarships and so much more! The university seemed to promise that if I kept going I’d be fail-proof. That wasn’t reality though.

Life happened and, while I have a good life, it isn’t the blissful perfection I’d thought I’d created. There were no guarantees. Hard work didn’t promise good results.

Then four years ago I started a new project—my own company.

I learned about failure. I learned that it refined me. I learned that it exposed areas where I needed to learn more. I learned that I was too confident in my own abilities and needed to give others a chance to do things for me.

I had to learn to be:
• Humble
• Give and receive grace
• Have hope [confident expectation of good] in spite of circumstances.

I had to learn I can only control the process I’m a part of. I cannot control the outcome.

I had to learn to let go.

Sometimes I had to allow myself to fail.

I want to be clear. I’m not talking about being lazy, but each of us have areas we seek absolute perfection and allow ourselves no breathing room.

You may try to put your kids in so many activities that it is impossible to get everyone to their events on time.

You may strive for a standard of living that is impossibly high at this stage in your career and thus force yourself in to unnecessary stress.

You may want to write a book, start a company, organize a group, or run a non-profit without ever having a bad day or unpleasant outcome.

Or maybe you are trying to make a child or spouse perfect to create a perfect world for you.

What I learned about failure is that it is one way I can see what I need to learn. It is also an indication that I’m trying to do too much.

Recently I had to take a step back and look at my failures. Where was I failing to meet my own expectations? Where was I failing to meet the expectations of others? Where was I failing to meet the expectations I’d PUT IN THE MIND OF OTHERS?

I realized I was on the fast track to crash and burn. I had to pull back from what I was doing, become more efficient, say no to a few things (including the unrealistic expectations from family) and I had to move forward without guilt.

I often tell my clients to focus on their strengths and the things that only they can do.

Only I can encourage my 4 daughters with a smile and a nod.

Only I can spend date night with my husband on Mondays.

Only I can determine what direction this company will go.

Those are the main things I need to focus on. That means if I fail to make a gourmet dinner and instead let my 10 year old make Grilled Cheese and Mac and Cheese for her sisters, it’s okay.

That means if I have to tell a client that I cannot drop everything to move their project on my calendar today, that is a failure to reach expectations I’ll have to accept.

That means if my finances don’t allow me to buy cool costumes for the girls at the store, I won’t feel guilty about it.

It means if I can’t please everyone, I have to be okay with that too.

So, if you want to help yourself and grow start by forgiving other people when they fail you. When your fries are cold, be kind to the person behind the counter. When you’re irritated by traffic, thank God you have a place to go and a way to get there. When your kids mess up in school or lie about who cut the couch, recognize it is their fear of failing you that brings these behaviors.

And after you’ve learned to forgive the failings of others, forgive your failures.

That will deprive them of strength and allow you to find the nuggets of truth, the lessons hidden in the failure.

That is when they’ll lose their sting and you’ll see them as the birth place of new ideas.

I no longer seek to be a straight A business owner. I take risks. I say, “Well, that was a $400 lesson. I know not to do that again.” And then I move on.

It wasn’t always that way. I had to go to my darkest place as you can see in this youtube video from 2 ½ years ago when things were starting to turn around for me.

What lessons have you learned from your failure? What lessons could you be learning if it didn’t scare you so much?

Come to my website and see if you can learn from any of my lessons [experiences that were once failures]. I’d also love to get to know you on FB. Come friend me and we can learn together.


Tiffany Colter is an award winning writer whose credits include Today’s Christian, Charisma Magazine, Toledo Business Journal, regular columns for Afictionado E-zine and the Suspense Magazine where she writes the “Ask your Writing Career Coach” column.

For Tiffany, writing is about a relationship. It is more than stories. More than communication. It is even more than a way to make a living. Writing is about connecting with people and understanding them where they are. As a business owner, making this connection is imperative to the success of your company. Words evoke feelings. They engage your senses. They change you.

She earned her BA in Political Science from the University of Toledo’s Honor’s College in 1998. She earned a Summa cum Laude distinction and was inducted in numerous honor societies, including Phi Kappa Phi and Golden Key.

She is the owner of The Writing Career Coach and Writing Career Coach Press. Tiffany teaches and speaks on connecting with your target market through written communication at live events and through online workshops. She served as coordinator of The Master Seminars for Chip MacGregor, and serves as a judge for multiple writing contests.

Whether you are a business owner trying to communicate your message, a teacher or speaker who wants to transform their spoken words in to book form, or an aspiring novelist who is just learning to navigate the ocean of publication. Tiffany and her team work together to understand where you are and where you’re going.


  1. Hmmm . . . besides "hey, don't do THAT again," I guess what I most learn from failure is (a) I can't do it all, (b) I can't do it alone and, the big one, (c) the world will not end if I mess up.

    Great post. Thanks!

  2. Good morning, DeAnna - or are you on your way to bed? Good answers! That last one's a doozey, isn't it?

    Welcome to the Inkwell, Tiff. I really appreciate you taking time to share with us on Self-help Friday. And I wasn't kidding about the tears. The part that gets me every time is when you say no one heard you. Oh. That's a gut clencher.

    How many times have people talked to me and I've been so wrapped up in my own world I haven't heard their words? Or the pain behind them?

    Or do you think it's because they heard but didn't believe what was happening?

    Anita Mae.

  3. Welcome to the Inkwell, Tiffany. I'm so glad you shared the Video as a reminder of how God carries us through those valleys. What an incredible testimony you have.

    This is a powerful word for our 'self-help' theme--one full of promise. I think I stop every third day or so and wonder where to cut back. Sometimes its just plain exhaustion or being sapped out that reminds me to let go of my self-imposed rules for the day.

    May God bless your family and your business in ways that continue to surprise you!

  4. What I've learned from my recent failures is that I don't ask for help enough.

  5. I've found the the lessons which have stuck with me most from school days stem from those times when I bombed the test. You know, like that test on the correct placement of commas in a compound sentence? Never made that mistake again!

    I think the best lesson any of us can learn from failure is perseverance. Abraham Lincoln lost his election for the senate, but he didn't quit politics. As a general, George Washington lost more battles than he won -- but he won the one that mattered. And then there is the Thomas Edison quote, "I never failed once. It just happened to be a 2,000-step process."

    As for myself, I have several folders of rejections. (Yes, several folders. They won't all fit into a single folder.)

  6. Yeah . . . I was actually on my way to bed, Anita. I guess one of the lessons I have learned is that it doesn't matter if the world is run by morning people, I'm still not one of them. :D

  7. Speaking of failures, can we count blogger as one lately? I don't mean to bite the hand that feeds us, but I understand Tiffany's been trying to leave comments and blogger isn't complying.

    We'll see if Tiff wants to relay them on to me or one of the other Inkies and then we'll post them here for her.

    Same as anyone else... my email is

    Or if that doesn't work, leave a comment on the 'contact' page of my website at and I'll relay it here.

    Meanwhile, don't let a little techno glitch stop the discussion.

    I appreciate your patience while the big 'b' people work on this.

    Anita Mae.

  8. Ok, I'm going to try to leave a comment. Blogger is sure having issues today.

    What a powerful post and video, Tiffany. I am so glad you shared with us. I am sure you're ministering to a lot of people today.

    I beat myself up far too much for my mistakes. Showing myself the same sort of grace I show others is tough for me. I'm learning to view myself as God's child, forgive myself, and move on.

  9. But DeAnna, I was only a morning person today. I purposely went to bed early and got up early because I couldn't get Tiff's post to preview in blogger and I wanted to do a quality control check before too many people saw it.

    Well, that and because I wanted to upload a video of Nick and Nelson leading worship with Mighty To Save on YouTube and it's faster at that time. Even then, it still took 5 hrs to load. Can you believe it! Which is why I went back to bed - I couldn't use the internet in the meantime or it would've slowed the upload or even - ack! - crashed in the middle.

    I've always been most productive in my writing between 9pm and 3am. :)

    Anita Mae.

  10. Anita!!!

    ::: rushes to throw her arms around a fellow night owl :::

    Those are exactly my best hours, too.

    And I SO don't believe you can train yourself to be a morning person if you're not. The only people who say that are already morning people!

    If years of school and work didn't train me to function early in the morning, I don't know what would!

    ::: adds a harrumph for good measure :::

  11. Oh this is stinky! I can't believe Tiffany never got on here today because Blogger chose to be rude.


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