12 Rules For Dealing With Disappointment

I’ve wanted to write about how to deal with disappointment for a while. Today, I have a good reason to actually do it.

We just had a very disappointing election in the United States. *Even if your candidate won, you have to admit that the campaign and process was full of disappointments. There are a lot of adjectives to describe how you may be feeling, and how I’m feeling. I’m not going to list them. You know how you feel.

So, now what?

Most importantly, remember that progress rarely happens in a straight line, and anyone who is constantly striving for progress will inevitably face disappointment. That goes for you experimenters who are always pushing yourself to be better, too.

You will have setbacks. You will face disappointment. The harder you push toward your potential, the more likely you are to run into disappointments along the way. It’s part of the process. And what you do about disappointment will determine your fate.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Frederick Douglass, August 3, 1857

(Side note, if you’ve never read the speech this quote is taken from, you absolutely should. It is especially stirring and timely right now.)

OK, ready? This is how to deal with disappointment, in 12 simple rules.

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The Definition of Courage

I occasionally write about climbing mountains. Not only is it one of my favorite things to do, but climbing makes a nice metaphor for a lot of the things we talk about here.

Goal setting. Hard work. Determination. Fear. CourageFailure. Success. Fear, againDisappointment. Hope. Uncertainty. PatienceCommitment. Challenging yourself. Experimenting.

I once wrote that climbing was my greatest teacher. I still think that’s true.


One of the things climbing has taught me the most about is fear. Fear and courage. The difference between them. The fact that you can’t be courageous unless you are afraid.

I used to believe that climbing was about courage and glory and the triumph of reaching a summit against the odds.

I used to think fear was complicated. I thought courage was a personality trait.

That was before I became a climber. Now I know better.

Courage is not a personality trait. Courage is a choice. – Click to Tweet!

Climbing has taught me that the summit does not define us.

We are defined by the simple act of going toward our challenges.

That’s the definition of courage. And you don’t need a mountain for that.


The Man In The Arena

A few friends and I had a great adventure this weekend. We tried to climb a mountain.

We drove for too many hours, slept far too few, got lost and exhausted and more than a little beaten up for our efforts. We started before the sun came up, and finished long after it set.

Ultimately, none of us made it to the summit.

I was disappointed as the realization set in that we wouldn’t reach our goal. I don’t like failing, even though I know it’s a part of life and growth, and is a crucial step to learning anything.

I was bummed we didn’t make it to the top. But it helps to be in an incredibly beautiful place, because my disappointment turned to gratitude as I had some time to sit by this lake and reflect on my experience. Honestly, look at this place–it doesn’t even look real.

Split Mountain

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January 2016 Update

IMG_1975Wow, it’s been a while since I published anything here. (This is becoming my default opening line for blog posts.) 🙂

I should probably do a 2015 recap post at some point. It was a big year for me with a lot of ups and downs, and lots of lessons learned (hopefully). Honestly, I can’t believe how fast the year seemed to fly by. I accomplished a few of my goals for the year, but slipped up on more.

Anyway, now the calendar says 2016, and I’m sure a lot of you will be thinking about your goals for the new year.

If you’re into making New Years Resolutions, you might want to check out the post I wrote back on January 1st, 2013 about how to make resolutions that stick.

I’m making a few resolutions this year. One of which is to actually stick to a writing and publishing schedule on this blog. I used to have a pretty solid writing habit, but I’ve been really inconsistent lately. It’s kind of funny because I talk so much about writing and habits, you’d think I would have actually figured that one out. My first experiment of the year is going to be to write every day (again). This will be Round 3 of that experiment.

I’m hoping to follow in the footsteps of one of the Monthly Experiments community members, Bradley Charbonneau, who has written and published something for more than a thousand days in a row.

I’ve got a few other key habits I want to rebuild, but of course I’m going to be taking them one at a time. I’ll announce some more of my goals for the year soon, and also catch up a bit with writing about the experiments I did last year.

Monthly Experiments Podcast

In the meantime, if you want to hear the origin story of how and why I started doing Monthly Experiments, I was interviewed for a really cool podcast a few months back. It was a fun experience, and I shared some things that I haven’t talked much about here on the blog before.

If you want to give it a listen, check out my episode of Challenge Your Thinking with Dr. Linda Tucker.

Ok, I’m going to wrap up there for now.

A few questions…

Are you making any New Years Resolutions? Are you taking on a personal experiment for January?

Let me know in the comments, and/or hop over to the Monthly Experiments Facebook community and say hi there.

Happy New Year!


Well, That Escalated Quickly

A few days ago, I announced the August 2015 Personal Experiment Challenge.

My pitch was pretty simple:

If there’s something you want to change, something that hasn’t been working in your life, or something you’ve always wanted to try, now is the perfect time to try something new for a month. If you want to create a new habit that will help you reach your longterm goals, this is a great excuse to make it happen.

And, for this month, I’m going to be coaching and supporting anyone who decides to participate.

When I published that post and sent out an email announcing the challenge, I didn’t really know what kind of response to expect. In the past, I’ve announce an experiment that I was doing and invited you all to join me. That’s been a lot of fun, and you guys have done amazing things in past experiments.

I set up a private Facebook group for anyone who wanted to participate, and I figured maybe a dozen or so people would join me in there and we’d talk about our experiments and offer support throughout the month.

Well, then, things escalated quickly.  [Read more…]

August 2015: Personal Experiment Challenge

Who wants to take on a 1-month personal challenge?

Hopefully, you do. Because that’s what this month’s experiment is all about! 🙂

In case you’re new here, every month I take on a personal experiment and write about my results. I usually pick an experiment I want to do at the beginning of the month, and write a post about it, and invite you to join me.

But this month, instead of focusing on my own experiment, I’m going to be helping other people (like you!) with their own experiments.

So, basically, this month, I’m leaving the experiment idea up to you.

If there’s something you want to change, something that hasn’t been working in your life, or something you’ve always wanted to try, now is the perfect time to try something new for a month. If you want to create a new habit that will help you reach your longterm goals, this is a great excuse to make it happen.

And, for this month, I’m going to be coaching and supporting anyone who decides to participate.

How This Will Work

Right now, we’ve got a small private Facebook group of experimenters who are participating in this challenge, and you should definitely join us (more on how to do that in a minute).

There are people people doing experiments related to writing, fitness, business, waking up early, and even yoga. You can do any experiment you want. I want this to be as simple as possible.

Here are the rules:

  1. Choose an experiment.
  2. Do it for a month.
  3. Let me know how it goes.

Pretty simple, right?

If you like the idea of doing a 1-month experiment, but you aren’t sure what to do, here’s a quick list of ideas based on my own favorite experiments.

You could:

Really, it doesn’t matter what you choose to do, as long as you stick with it for a month.

Taking on an experiment or personal challenge is a great way to push yourself, cultivate more discipline, and have some fun.

Of course, if you have a more serious motivation for taking on a personal experiment, that’s great. Experiments are a great way to change habits and grow into your better self.

How To Join Us

I mentioned that there’s a private Facebook group for this experiment. I created it because I wanted a place for this community to interact and get support and advice and accountability. It’s very small right now, but so far it’s going well. People are encouraging each other and sharing their progress. It’s really inspiring, and I’d like to figure out a way to grow that community aspect more in the future.

If you want to join the private Facebook group, let me know in the comments here and I’ll send you an invitation. Or you can add me on Facebook and I’ll add you to the group.

Of course, you don’t have to participate in the Facebook group. You can also just send me an email, or leave a comment below to make your commitment.

[Update: Now you can just click here to join the Facebook group!]

Or you can tell your friends by tweeting your commitment to this challenge. Click here to tweet. (Thanks for the support if you do decide to share this publicly!)

Sound good? Let’s do this!

1,000 Posts in 1,000 Days

I’ve been excited about sharing this post for a long time. I didn’t write it though, except for this little introduction. It’s a guest post from my friend Bradley Charbonneau, and it’s been a long time coming.

I woke up this morning and thought about how I could explain the way it feels to publish this… because, it’s a pretty big deal. It’s basically a superhero story. Basically.

I thought about just telling you the story, trying to sum up the way it started, with three guys talking in a cafe in downtown San Francisco back in November of 2012.

Bradley runs a web development company and is a sort of business partner to me, but I always knew he had a secret past life as a writer. Sometimes he would talk about his writing days, about magazine articles and publishing his first book a decade earlier, about that other book, the “real” one in the drawer that just needed to be dusted off. He always lit up when he talked about writing, about how he’d like to do it more, get back into it and be a writer again. Most people stop there. They reminisce, talk about what they’d “like” to do differently, but nothing really changes.

Sitting in that cafe, Bradley said something really important. “A writer is someone who writes.”

I was really excited about doing monthly experiments to create new habits, so, I challenged him to write every day for a month to see what happened. He said he’d do one better, he’d write AND publish something every day for a month. We left the cafe and he got to work.

“So here we go, it’s November 1, 2012. I’m hoping, I’m even smiling to myself (no, really) that I’ll look back on this day with pride and say that was the day that it all began. Whew, exhilarating.” – Bradley Charbonneau, the unstoppable writing machine.

I honestly don’t know how to describe what happened next because it’s hard for me to believe it, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever had the privilege of watching. Bradley wrote and published something every day for a month. I saw him start to change right away. He was excited and energetic. He’d say things like, “I’m feeling like a writer again” and “writing is bringing me closer to my kids” and “I’m falling back in love with writing.” He didn’t stop when the month was over.

He kept going.

He wrote and published something every day for 100 days, then 200, then 300, then a year, then 500 days. He wrote and published a book with his kids on the 10-year anniversary of publishing his first book. Then he did it again a year later. He became unstoppable. Today is his 1,000th post in a row. I asked him to publish it here.

And so, here it is… [Read more…]

June 2015: Decluttering Experiment

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve actually posted here on the Monthly Experiments Project. I’ll write an update post (or ten) about the cool experiments I’ve been doing in that time (Neurofeedback, giving up alcohol, giving up sugar, starting a new business, and taking on a new fitness experiment) which I’m excited to tell you about a little later.

But today I want to introduce a brand new experiment that I’m starting this month, and you’re invited to join me.

I’m calling it the Decluttering Experiment. 


The inspiration for this experiment came to me when I was traveling, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years. [Read more…]

A Wet Man Does Not Fear The Rain

This post is part of the No Excuses Challenge.


There’s a track near my house where I like to run. Especially on rainy days. It might sound strange, but I’ve always loved running in the rain. Ever since I was 10 years old.

When I used to run track, practice would be “rained out” but I’d do it anyway, usually all by myself. Same for soccer, except my whole team would practice or play in the rain.

I never understood why other sports didn’t carry on in the rain, but soccer players seemed to have discovered that they were, in fact, waterproof, and nothing bad would happen to them if they got wet.

Oh well. I loved it. And I still do. Even if it’s a hard rain or a cold rain, I’ll still go sometimes. The track is different in the rain.

When it’s sunny out, if there’s a puddle, I’ll probably run around it. Or jump over it. But when I’m already soaked, I splash right through it. 

[Read more…]

May 2014: Work on a Secret Project

Work On A Secret Project

Who wants to work on a secret project?

Hopefully, you do. Because that’s what this month’s experiment is all about!

I’m challenging myself (and you) to work on some kind of secret project this month.

The rules are pretty simple:

  1. Pick a secret project. (See some project ideas below.)
  2. Work on it throughout the month (I’m aiming for an hour a day.)
  3. At the end of the month, if you want to share your secret project with the world, I’ll host a big show-and-tell for anyone who participates in the experiment.

I think this is going to be a lot of fun.

Why should you work on a secret project?

Apart from the fact that secret projects are fun, there are some really good reasons to work on something without telling anyone about it.

Derek Sivers gave a famous TED Talk about Why You Should Keep Your Goals To Yourself.

There is compelling research dating back to the 1920s that suggests you’re more likely to reach your goals if you don’t tell people about them first.

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, now is the time to start. And “later” is the time to talk about it.

What should you do for your secret project?

It doesn’t really matter what you do for your secret project, but rule number one is that you don’t talk about fight club your secret project until the end of the month.

Here are some secret project ideas to get you started:

  • You could start a secret blog, or write a book, or build an online course and then launch it at the end of the month.
  • You could make a piece of art.
  • You could build a treehouse or a birdhouse or a bookshelf or something cool for your home. That’s right, I just told you to build a treehouse.
  • You could make a surprise present for someone you care about.
  • You could learn how to play a musical instrument, and then surprise your friends with a song.
  • You could teach yourself how to cook a really great recipe and then make a surprise dinner for your family (Boyfriends & husbands, take note). I suggest a recipe from Thug Kitchen.
  • You could start a new fitness program and not tell anyone about it (wait until your friends and family notice on their own).
  • You could use Duolingo or Fluent In Three Months to start learning a new language.
  • You could make a Shishi-odoshi fountain. (Bonus points for this one, because they’re super cool. – Tutorial here.)
  • You could even start a blog about Pictures of Hipsters Taking Pictures of Food.  (That’s a thing, apparently.)
  • You could think of something way better than these ideas. 🙂

You get the idea. This can be serious, or just for fun. There are no rules other than you have to spend time working on something, and you have to keep it a secret for now.

I’ve already decided what my secret project is going to be, and I’ll be revealing it at the end of the month.

I can tell you that I’m going to be making something, and also practicing a skill I want to get better at.

I’m also going to be spending at least an hour per day on my secret project. I have no idea what will happen, but I’m excited to find out.

I Hope You Will Join Me

If you want to participate, all you have to do is start planning and working on your secret project.

If you want to be eligible for the show-and-tell at the end of the month, leave a comment below and say that you’re in. You can join at any time during the month.

It’s ok to share this experiment with your friends and invite them to do their own secret project too.

You can also click here to tweet that you’re in. (I appreciate it!)

I can’t wait to show you what I’m working on…

Who’s with me?