Celebrating… and Licking My Wounds

I’m sitting in a United Club at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, fueled up on second-rate bagels and first-rate espresso.

I’m working up a fascinating buzz on the heels of a restless night of weird dreams – featuring my wife’s voice calmly announcing, “there are voices in this room that are definitely not ours” – and longer-than-usual check in lines at Albany Airport.

Last 45 minutes of the first flight was bumpy AF, with enough turbulence for the captain to get on the PA just after takeoff to let us know the seatbelt sign would be coming on extra-early.  Came back on later to tell us it was going to be a harder-then-usual landing followed by “a rapid deceleration on a less-used, shorter runway.  Nothing to worry about, perfectly normal.  You might just get pitched forward a little more than usual in your seats.”

Personally, I’m not averse to displays of flying skill.  I like an honest pilot.

I’m heading to Palo Alto, CA for the final installment of this year’s Conscious Business Leadership Academy.  It’ll be a graduation celebration for a cohort of amazing CEO’s who’ve been learning the tenets and pillars of Conscious Capitalism.  They’re a cool, courageous bunch – strong, comforting reminders that refreshing winds still blow in the world of business, that responsibility and caring can coexist with profitability.  I’m thrilled to be a part of this movement!

And damn… at the same time I’m on my way to a celebration of success, I’m licking the wounds of disappointment and failure.

If you’ve been with me for a while – well, I’m wildly grateful you’re here.  And you’d know I’ve been running men’s programs for years.

Over the arc of my program’s life, it’s been a success.  Ten cohorts in five years, a whole lot of happy graduates with an astounding array of positive outcomes to report.  Some rocking testimonials, including my personal fave from Don’Angelo Bivens, who pulled zero punches, challenging other men to “do the f’ing program!”

I’ve forged ahead with smallish cohorts in the past, and they’ve been powerful experiences for all involved…

But this time, with only three men registered across two groups and no hint of new interest or requests for information, it was time to call it and move on.

The good news is that my vision, passion, and commitment remain alive and intact, and the material is rock-solid and timely as ever.  (Truth be told, I think it’s even more timely and important than it’s ever been.)

The bad news is that tossing in the towel for this round was a stinging disappointment.  No one enjoys having their hopes and expectations dashed, and as the weeks passed, mine grew steadily higher, only to drop hard as the numbers told their story.

Why am I telling you all this?

First of all, because it’s real.  Numbers simply are, and in this case, the data was clear.

Another reason: I have a reputation.  While I’m not necessarily a household name, I’ve been out and about in my industry for years, been in front of thousands of folks, and have amassed a reasonable following.

I’m not one to take anything for granted, and I believe I have a responsibility (not a burden, by the way) to share the full range of professional ups and downs and, of course, what I learn from my experiences.

In our adolescent, Hollywood-infused culture, it’s too easy (to say nothing of seductive) to over-index on the sunny side and hide failures in the dark.

Screw that.

Thing is, there’s going to (eventually) be valuable learning and growth that springs from the fertile ground of the failed programs of September 2023.  As I discover what those lessons are, I’ll share them.

Meanwhile, I hope folks following paths similar to mine find a modicum of comfort knowing that this stuff occasionally happens even when one is well over two decades into a successful business.

I had big plans for these groups, and the circumstance sucks.

But I’m not a victim here.  I’m a small business owner, an entrepreneur – and a responsible, transparent, conscious adult one at that – and I just experienced a setback.  (In case you’re wondering, I’ve already uncovered a couple of places where I dropped the ball – with more to come!)

And yes, I’m on my way across the country to celebrate the success of others whilst licking the wounds of my failure at the very same time…

And I gotta admit, it ain’t so bad.