Your best teacher is your last mistake


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When I was a little kiddy, I remember having to sit multi choice tests in primary school to determine my brain power (whether or not these tests actually determined this remains debatable). Every time the tests were administered I experienced complete and utter terror. I hated tests and I hated multi choice tests even more. There was something utterly terrifying about having to decide which answer was best and doing so made me want to vomit all over my tiny wooden desk.

One incident stands out from the rest. On this occasion, after fretting anxiously over each question as if my life depended on it, the teacher approached me with test in hand and asked if I’d filled it out properly. She had an inkling I had some brains, but the score on my sheet must have shown otherwise due to the excessive unease that wracked my body when filling it out. She asked me if I’d lined the questions up wrong. She didn’t want to admit that the child in front of her had no idea how to decide between 1, 2, 3 or 4 and that multi choice questionnaires were in no way a representation of the intelligence of a child. I just nodded in agreement and was told to do it again in the hope that this time my score would be better.


Your best teacher is your last mistake

How a No-Lose decision making process can propel you forward


Fast forward 25 years and the same pattern has played out in my life and business ever since. It has also caused me a good deal of pain.

Recently I made the decision to narrow my niche in my coaching business and focus on female entrepreneurs who are looking to be published. After making a whole lot of changes on my website and changing my programs to be more aligned with this target market I completely freaked out.

My natural reaction was to retreat into fear. It took over my body and my chest tightened. I started crying and was taken back to Standard 3 and the multi-choice test. With this came the stories and beliefs I had held on to since those early years: “What if I’ve made a huge mistake?” “What if I never get any more clients?” “What if I look stupid?” “I am a failure!”

All of these beliefs were threatening to have me retreat back into myself and move into a place of inaction, unless I took charge. I was snapped back to reality when Anthony, my partner, asked quite simply: “Can you change it back?”

With this simple question I realised that when I make a decision, the outcome doesn’t matter.

Dr Susan Jeffers discusses this in her book Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway and outlines two possible decision making models – one involves a No-Lose outcome and the other a No-Win. Up until this point I had been running the No-Win model.

The No-Win Decision Making Model

This model holds that no matter what I decide it is going to potentially be a wrong decision. In this state of mind I am weighing up the pros and cons of each decision I could potentially make and playing them off against each other. In this case, when I make the decision I then look back on what I could or should have done that could or would have got me a better solution. In other words, I look at the decision making process as a potential for making a mistake and in doing so become frozen at the prospect of making any decision whatsoever.

The No-Lose Decision Making Model

The other option is to look at it from the No-Lose point of view, where each possible outcome is a win and I focus more on the process rather than the outcome itself. Using my current circumstance as an example, if I change my website and it doesn’t work than I can learn from this mistake and move on. If I change my website and it does work then I learn from the situation and move on. What this really involves is changing our mindset from possible loses to possible wins and looking at every decision, situation, or mistake as a potential for learning and growing.

This last month I have made many mistakes and I initially came at it from a perspective of No-Win. All of my mistakes were an opportunity to remind myself of how I had failed. Now, however, I have chosen to look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow and so I have decided to share my mistakes with you and the insights I have gained.

5 insights I have gained from my mistakes


1. Compare to no-one and follow your vision

I started comparing myself to others. I told myself that if another coach was changing their website to focus on bloggers, then I should be doing this too. I didn’t allow for my own uniqueness to come to the surface. This comparison kept me locked in a place where I was unable to shine. I was so focused on what other small business owners and coaches were doing that I forgot about you. What good is a coaching business without clients? What good is a blog without readers? If I am unable to listen to those who are interacting with my work then I am not fulfilling my vision of sharing my truth with the world and in doing so allowing you to share yours.

2. Listen to intuition, not the advice of those whose opinions don’t matter

I started caring about what other people thought. My first mistake was listening to the opinions of others when it was simply that – an opinion. When people told me that they didn’t align with the “holistic” message I listened to them, rather than listening to my clients and readers who were coming to me and resonating with holistic health and wellbeing.

We create opinions based on our experiences with life, with what we are taught as children as well as our reality – past and present.

When people come to you with their opinions about what is right or wrong, instead of taking what they say as gospel ask yourself “Who are they?” and “What do they know?” Also ask yourself “What have they done?” Make sure that the person giving their opinion has experience in what they are giving advice about and that they are coming from a place of authority. If not, then their opinion is simply their map of the world and it doesn’t make their opinion any better, or worse, than yours. Listen to your intuition, rather than the opinions of others.

3. Listen to your readers, your followers – your tribe

When fellow coaches told me that what I was doing was too broad, I listened to their point of view and went about changing my website and my message to something narrower, rather than trusting my gut, listening to my intuition, and simply sticking with what I was good at.

I started trying to control the direction my business was going, by shaping it to be a certain way. This only served to add to the confusion and shut out those of you who had been there all along – reading, listening, and signing up to my services. I was attempting to control how everything looked out of fear, thinking that if I shaped it to be a certain way clients would come pouring in. My biggest mistake was focusing on the direction I wanted it to go, rather than the direction you were taking me.

4.Take note of what works, and what doesn’t

For a while I took it for granted that people were engaged. I didn’t stop to think about the fact that perhaps this wasn’t the case for other coaches and bloggers and that maybe, just maybe, I was doing something right.

I was told in my coaching training to listen to feedback from others regarding our talents and take note of the things that we are good at. I am so accustomed to giving myself a hard time and putting pressure on myself that I completely forgot to TAKE NOTE OF THE WINS: BIG AND SMALL.

People are commenting on blog posts – keep writing. People are signing up to packages – leave them as they are. People are engaging with you via email – write their names down and keep the conversation going. It is all part of the wheel and it all matters.

5. Letting go of the need to know

So now I am in a place where I just don’t know. I am open to working with whoever crosses my path, whether they are female entrepreneurs or men looking to overcome anxiety. I am here to add value to the lives of others through writing, coaching and teaching and I absolutely adore it. Whatever my message is, I hope it is heard by those who need it and that is all I aim for today. The rest is a bonus.

Ka kite ano,

Tess x

6 comments on “Your best teacher is your last mistake

  1. I’ve been following you for a few months and always get such warm courage & insights from your writing and reflections – and they always seem to come with perfect timing! While I haven’t signed up for anything yet it stays in the back of my head as a possibility. I decided to reply today because I for one am glad you’re not narrowing your scope!! As soon as I read that I thought, “oh bugger” – I’m just a 30s woman who’s a bit lost, stuck, indecisive and having a crisis of confidence, needing some help, kindness, inspiration – but I’m not sure about publishing. The kind of coaching I’m looking for & think is so relevant today is how to stay authentic in a world moving so fast? How to pursue these 7 careers we are supposed to have in one life? How to deal with ridiculous house prices and messages about how much super we need to last until we’re 100?! How to take risks & learn to make no-lose decisions in spite of all this uncertainty? How to honour reaching versions our authentic potential, but not become obsessed with being “outstanding”, “special” and caught in the “no win decisions” of our ego. Your blog and business help me think about these things and feel connected to a community who is also thinking about these things. Thank you – I think I may have gone off track, but today I felt I really to write back and say thank you.

    • Hi Helen,

      I am so glad you replied, it nearly brought a tear to my eyes. To know that the message I am sharing with the world is resonating with others is a true gift. Kindness, inspiration, and help is something I can do 🙂

      I totally agree that there is so much pressure at the moment to do, do do! When really what it really comes down to is being able to simply be – with who we are, and in the present moment.

      What I am hearing through your message is the need to live an authentic purpose driven life, filled with passion and I’m so happy that reading my blog allows you to connect to this part of yourself and to remind you of what is important.

      Please keep in touch,

      Warm regards,

      Tess x

  2. Good Afternoon Tess,
    What a beautiful read. First of all I would like to commend you on your honesty about your childhood nightmares. It takes a brave person to voice there personal weaknesses or as i like to say “challenges” to a lot of people.
    You have come a long way and have changed your direction but that is all a part of learning and you have done it with people who adore your work and who will keep in contact because of your positive nature and inspiration. You can always change your course if you don’t like it.
    Keep doing what you are doing Tess. I love reading your blogs and keeping in touch. It reminds me everyday to be grateful and to follow your bliss.
    Lots of loves
    Lisa xx

    • Hi Lisa,

      Thank you so much for your comment, I have found that the more I share these intimate moments with the world, the more people seem to connect because we are all just human after all. I have indeed come so far! Especially from we first met that’s for sure and I was turning up late for work 😉 It is so beautiful to know that there are people we meet – such as yourself – and continue to hold that connection for years to come as we go through our different journeys. I love reading your comments and replies too Lisa – it keeps me doing what I’m doing.

      Keep following your bliss.
      Love Tess xx

  3. Thanks Tess. This is a great read. Ultimately I guess it boils down ‘To Thine own self be true’ and intuition is the vehicle to know that truth. Sometimes it is so hard to let that intuitive sense bubble through the confusion and mental Chaos though. Your thoughts and experiences. are great reminders to do this. thank you! And I agree with Helen, I’m glad you’re not narrowing your focus too, although I know working with women who want to be writers is a great gig for you. Your own experience in becoming the writer you are is fabulous! And pure inspiration. And the process you undertook to do this can be applied to any venture! So I’m very glad you’re still available to assist people to realise their true selves in any and all areas! Anna

    • Hi Anna,

      Thank you so much for your message. It is so true that we just have to be true to ourselves, I learn this lesson over and over again in my life. I am learning to listen to the ‘intuitive sense bubble’ through my confusion, and it is definitely getting easier to sense and hear. I feel like it’s the right decision and I thank you so much for your encouragement, it means so much!

      Lots of love,

      Tess x

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