Illusions of Failure


Nearly a month ago, I lost the love of my life – my nephew, CJ. He was just four days shy of his twentieth birthday when the ice grabbed ahold of his tire and spun him backward into oncoming traffic.

Screams turned to sobs, and eventually a stream of uncontrollable tears. Trying to grab ahold to myself, I worked to practice Loving What Is, but I can assure you it was impossible – at best – to love the reality of what happened.

As I went on long walks with my nieces and nephews – CJ’s siblings and cousins – I found myself conflicted by two very strong, and opposing, emotions: Gratitude and Fear.

As difficult as the situation was, I was grateful to have that time with them. Yet, I also found myself afraid to get too close to any child again, ever. As I found myself pining for a way to fill this void, I realized two things –

No one can ever replace another.


It hurts so deeply because I choose to love so deeply.

If opening ourselves up to love (people/our work) means risking the possibility of hurting so deeply (failing), why love?

I thought about that one question a great deal during my nine days in Colorado (where I am from, and where CJ lived), and I’ve come to realize that there’s great power in love. In fact, it’s the only place of real power.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said it best, “There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear.”

And, when we don’t choose love, Kubler-Ross said, we choose fear. You cannot hold both of these emotions at the same time. Love is rooted in the present; while fear exists in the past or future, neither of which do we have any control over. And yet, it’s control we want.

We want to control the outcomes we care about, be it the vision for our career (or business), or the life of another. When we don’t allow ourselves to care, we get to avoid the feelings that come from perceived failure.

Of course it’s perceived – our real success is in the courage to love –

  • To run after our dreams.
  • To put our whole heart into a project.
  • To pour every ounce of what we have to offer into a loved one, a colleague, or even a complete stranger.

Why does love take such courage? Because the very human feelings that emerge when our expectations go unmet, hurt. When we pour ourselves into a project, a vision, a team… a person, and fail to get the outcomes we expect, it hurts.

As a result, it’s easier to avoid such failures by never letting yourself care too much. If the project (or the people) fail, and you never really cared, it’s no big deal. But when you care about their success in life, or the life of your project, you open yourself up to the possibility of hurt.

So, the question becomes: do you spend your life refusing to care? Or, do you take the risk over and over again, as you fall in love with people, plans, and projects that light you up?

While I cannot pretend to have the right answer to this question, my choice is clear: love. To open myself up the yin and yang of life – the rewards of such love are far greater than the illusions of failure.




Thanks to Dexter Britain and Gillycuddy for their music contribution and LN Lurie for producing this podcast.

12 thoughts on “Illusions of Failure

  1. Chandra Ludwig

    I have been following you since I met you at a conference a number of years ago in DC. I am so very sorry to hear of your loss. I wish you and your family peace in your hearts. Thank you so much for sharing your story of the courage to continue to choose love. It is an inspiring reminder that all things worth embracing come with a cost and the greater cost will always never having experienced passion of the embrace. You and the reminder are appreciated!

    • Misti Burmeister

      Hi Chandra,

      Thank you for following my work. And thank you for your kind words.

      Here’s to love!



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