“Some of God’s greatest gifts are Unanswered Prayers,” sings country music legend Garth Brooks, who continues, “I guess the Lord knows what he’s doin’ after all.”
And that’s one of the great lessons of life … to take a leap of faith and experience what I call “sweet irony” — how things that we fervently hope and pray for sometimes don’t happen, yet we go on to find a tremendous “silver lining surprise” in what seemed to be a dark cloud of failure.
I don’t know about you, but I have several personal “sweet irony” stories. I gladly share these with my coaching clients who may be struggling with difficult situations. A few of my “greatest hits” (which felt like body blows at the time):
• An apparent failure with my first coaching business endeavor in 1982. I developed a prototype coaching program over 20 years ago which became my first venture into entrepreneurship. After only six month and a little bit of debt, I came to the conclusion it wouldn’t work and told myself, “Coaching is a bad idea — I’ll NEVER try that again …” (What is it I do for a living today?) At the time I had an easel pad with all of my coaching instructions written on its pages — I recall throwing it in the dumpster in a fit of despair. Several years later a social worker friend of mine asked me what happened to my coaching material — I told him I had tossed it out. He asked me if I could recreate it, so I sat down and typed out the outline, then mailed it to him, keeping a copy for “posterity.” This outline turned into the basis of the two coaching books I’ve authored and use to this day with my clients. The truth was, I simply didn’t know enough about running a business back in 1982 … after learning more in subsequent years, I’ve developed a thriving coaching practice.
• A romantic relationship setback with a woman who I thought would be my partner for life — heck, we even got a dog together! After having a brief pity party for my broken heart, I began to make new dog-owner friends in my neighborhood. One such couple invited me to their wedding reception where I met a woman who is now my wife. The first relationship “went to the dogs” because I failed to realize I was trying to rescue someone who didn’t want to help herself. (That’s never happened to any of YOU, I reckon … has it?) I needed to learn how to take great care of myself to attract a great partner, so that “dog-gone” involvement was just the wake-up call I needed.
• A broken agreement from a potentially sizable corporate account that put me in dire financial straits at the time. Everything seemed in place, when at the last minute the branch manager of the firm announced his budget for a group coaching project had suddenly “evaporated.” This painful career development forced me to reconsider my professional offering, and I found out I was much better suited to the one-on-one business coaching I practice today. Who knows how long I would have struggled along pursuing corporate groups without this lighting bolt from seemingly nowhere?
In each case I was emotionally devastated by these events, which left me confused, scared and, worst of all, humbled by doubts about my capability to attain success with these greatly hoped and prayed for dreams. Yet in hindsight each of these temporary defeats (although at the time they sure seemed permanent) led me to something EVEN BETTER in my life … now I look back and laugh!
I hope my stories here deliver a message of hope to each of you who may be struggling with what appear to be unfortunate circumstances. You can trust that everything works for a reason, and everything works for the best — even the painful transitions we all endure from time to time. At these moments the words of Napoleon Hill in Think and Grow Rich can be a measure of comfort: “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.” Sage words to follow for you to experience your own “sweet irony.”