Five Steps to Surviving Disappointment and Transcending Failure (a personal story with audio)

It’s the call after a kid’s sport tryout that any parent dreads.  “Your kid didn’t make the team this year.”

In our case, my daughter got moved down to the “B” team after being on the “A” team for several years.

While neither a career ending move nor a complete surprise, it did not ease the blow.

The call came Thursday. I saved the news until Friday.  The school’s year-end play was Thursday night, and I couldn’t ruin her on-stage performance. Afterwards, she was so happy that I couldn’t take her out of her bliss. Then Friday she raced out of school to ask if she could go to an impromptu play date.  “I guess you can go,” I said out loud, “but I really need to tell you something,” I thought to myself.  She skipped off merrily.

Was I trying to delay feeling my own pain, I wondered?  After I picked her up from her friend’s house, I knew the time had come.


How did she take it?  She bellowed and wailed.  She later described receiving the new s like a punch in the stomach.  She seemed shocked as she described a feeling like she was going to throw up. “Yep,” I thought, she now officially knows the feeling of disappointment and the dreaded “F” word–failure.

How would this experience affect her in the future?  Would this be the moment she’d later work through at thirty in a coaching session when she wants to push through her fear of failure in order to pursue her dreams?  I wondered if I was in the midst of a life-changing moment.

What happened next frankly shocked both my husband and me.


We both sat silently.  We knew she needed to get it up and out.  “Let it rip” is always my philosophy when it comes to grief and anger.  Believe me when I say, “she did.”

Then she did something else. As she paced the house crying, she delivered a ‘download’ of direction that seemed to come to her between sobs.

“Dad, I need to tell my best friend (and fellow team member) that I didn’t make the team.  “Will you call Mr.Carlson and tell him I need to come over tonight and tell Ellie in person.  Tell him not to tell her.  I want to tell her myself.”   My husband said yes, he’d make the call.

Next, “Mom, can you get me Coach Erin’s telephone number?  I want to call her and ask what I need to improve in order to get back on the team next year?”  The intense crying now had her gasping for air with her head bouncing in hiccup-like convulsions as she’d so often done when she was a baby.

Then she let loose a huge wail as the reality of a season without the friends she’d grown close to settled in.

She, however, continued,  “I need to call [the girl who is replacing me on the team] and congratulate her on moving up.”  (I listened as she ended that 70-minute long telephone conversation with genuine happiness for the girl, “they are lucky to have you on the team.” You could hear her smile as she said these words.)

My heart sank.  Where did that come from?  Somehow in the middle of her intense emotion and pain, my daughter remained clear-minded and heart-centered.

I reflected, “Would I have thought of these three actions?  If I did how long would it have taken me to pull them out?  And would I have had the courage in my anguish to follow through?”

My daughter was proof  that we humans can train ourselves to keep our heart wide open even after great disappointment, pain and failure.  We don’t have to succumb to our emotions.

What had she done to help her get to this moment?  I’d like to say it was me, but it wasn’t.  Her father and I hadn’t given any direction.

Instead, Casserly had tapped into her already existing oceans of insight and wisdom.  Her first step was to feel and acknowledge her pain.  The next four steps required her to

  • ASK her ‘Higher Self’ or intuition the question.  (Ex. What should I do next?”)
  • LISTEN to the answer or direction.
  • TRUST the answer and then
  • ACT on it.

She could have locked herself in her bedroom and thrown her head in her pillow — like I may have done in the same situation.

After all, it’s easy to make disappointment Personal–“I am a loser.”

And Pervasive: “It always happens to me and always will.”

Instead, she grieved and was present in each painful moment and conversation that followed so that she could MOVE ON.

She reminded me that day that I can’t always choose my circumstances, but I can always choose how I respond.  Pain is temporary; suffering is a choice.

We will survive.  We can transcend failure.  Failure doesn’t define us.

Zen Parenting Radio did a heartfelt interview with Casserly regarding her story.  If you’d like to hear her explain the process she went through, listen here.

The emotion was still raw when this was taped.  It’s authentic and real. Casserly, nonetheless, persevered with grace and love. She was her mother’s teacher once again.

Click here to listen to the interview.

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