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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Why “failure” was my greatest teacher [Wise Wednesdays]

When I was preparing for a big career leap, I had the sense that it was best to keep it quiet.

I only told a few people on a need-to-know basis…

I quickly understood that some people just didn’t get what I was doing.

The idea of not continuing to work to get to the next rung on the career ladder was failure in their eyes. To them it seemed like I was giving up – that I couldn’t cut it, perhaps. At best, they thought I was burnt out and just needed a break.

Once or twice, I even said I was going on maternity leave because it felt more acceptable. I joked with a sympathetic colleague that I was going on baternity leave to give birth to a business…

And so I learned that failure is in the eye of the beholder.


This isn’t a motivational piece with practical tips or mindset tricks on how to turn failure around.

It’s a deeper questioning of our assumptions around meaningful life decisions.

Your life choices may seem like a failure in the eyes of certain people. But that doesn’t mean they are not the right decisions for you.

You may be living in two different realities. By separating each other’s realities, you can break out of the trap of other people’s expectations and embrace your own aspirations.

Today, understanding this fluid nature of reality and how we construct it (and deconstruct it) is at the heart of the transformational work I do every day with incredible people who are carving their own paths.


In one sense, I did have to allow my original career plan to fail. At medical school, I wanted to devote my life to being a global public health doctor working with intergovernmental organisations.

And while that is what I did for years, life opened up another path for me.

So you may well need to allow your old plans to ‘fail’ so that you can stop pouring energy into projects and relationships that are not meant to be.

By redefining ‘failure’ as a disinvestment from an outdated plan you are:

- making space for new, more aligned possibilities

- saying ‘no’ to limiting expectations and ‘yes’ to life

- allowing something bigger to play out

- creating with less egoic struggle

- breaking a mould that no longer fits

- dissolving outdated beliefs that no longer serve you

- going beyond conventional success to claim your authentic happiness

- being who you really are

Legends in the making: I’m proud of all my clients for courageously going on this journey especially during the pandemic. They trust that the ‘failure’ of old plans that no longer fit them will open up the larger possibilities awaiting them. And it does.

Many of them have made big decisions during the pandemic that paid off. They turned uncertainty into an ally and disregarded other people’s judgments to pursue their passion including:

- M initiated a big career change after 40, leaving a lucrative corporate job to apply (successfully) to medical school

- A started a transformational career coaching practice while doing a PhD in organisational psychology after leaving a career in finance

- P added deep coaching to psychiatry and grew a location-independent mental wellbeing practice which allows easier intercontinental travel to enjoy family and a higher quality of life

The pandemic has reminded us all of the inevitable: life is what happens while we’re busy making plans.

Millions are taking the opportunity to break with the old and follow their inspiration – it’s called the Great Resignation, apparently.

Your plans are smaller than your destiny.

Through so-called ‘failure’ you will know what is truly possible for you. Your willingness to ‘fail’ is your passport to fulfilment.

How is ‘failure’ a doorway to a new world for you?

Have a great week,


p.s. I’ll be offering a session on how to Navigate Career Uncertainty Like an Entrepreneur at the Lancet-NIHR UK Conference on Public Health Science next week. If you’re a researcher or know someone who is passionate about population health research and would also like insights into developing a research career in public health, the details and registration are here.

Plus… Do you want to bring your bigger career vision to life and inspire others?

Your journey starts and continues with your next step…

If 5 or more of the following questions are true for you, then read on for your next leap:

1) Integrity and authenticity. You’re known for being honest and perhaps even direct. People can count on you for your incisive contributions. YES/NO

2) Fearlessness. You’ve done courageous things in your life. You can take a risk without the idea of failure paralysing you. YES/NO

3) Intuition. You see patterns that others can’t. You’re willing to trust your intuition even if it guides you outside the conventional track. YES/NO.

4) Empathy and kindness. You know what’s needed in a situation before others do. You even know what others need before they know it themselves. Some say you’re a rescuer…YES/NO

5) Presence. When you’re in the room, people feel calmer and better. Perhaps they open up to you spontaneously. You show up powerfully when needed and this gives you transformational impact. YES/NO

6) Vision. You have a sense of how the world could be without so much fear and confusion. You’re willing to commit to a powerful mission. YES/NO

7) Bias for action. You’re not just a dreamer with a vision. You know how to get things done. When you’re on fire, you’re unstoppable. YES/NO

Whenever you’re ready… here are 3 ways I can help you create the career, leadership impact and life you truly want:

  1. Get a free chapter from The Success Trap book on the distinction between being goal-driven and living from creative cycles, overcoming goal-setting fatigue, cultivating flow and the 6 Rs of creating a new career [Open PDF].

  2. Find out more about Presence Power Possibility my 6-month transformational coaching group and mastermind and get the best of both 1:1 and group support.

  3. Explore what it would be like to work 1:1 with me. I coach a small number of people to offer a deep, highly personalised coaching process to help reclaim your happiness, rediscover your power and create the career, impact and life you truly want.

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