Make Meaning ⚡️M-School #5 - ⚡️Kristen Kalp

Make Meaning ⚡️M-School #5

It’s easy to make meaning from the prettiest, best moments of our lives, but that’s not the job of M-School.  (This is episode 5, here are episodes one, two, three, and four.)

Making meaning from failure is the most important act you’ll undertake during our time together.

Before we go any further, grab a piece of paper and list 5 of what you consider to be your biggest failures. You don’t have to share these with anyone, but go ahead and write ’em down before you keep going. PLEASE.


?  That time (okay, those many, many times) I would steal away to Grandma’s house and Mom would yell, “Don’t have a bowl of ice cream!” before I left, so I would have TWO bowls of ice cream when I got through Grandma’s front door. I was 5 (and 6 and 7 and 8 and 9), finding ways to get around the rules.

?  That time I laid on the floor in SEAL (Special Education for Advanced Learners) and Mrs. Spisso yelled at me for being so uncivilized. But the floor was cool, blue tile against my cheek and the stools were so uncomfortable. I was seven, listening to my body and delighting in my senses.

?  That time I gave up on being the Valedictorian of my high school because I refused to take an additional chemistry class my Senior year. On previous episodes of Kristen Takes Chemistry: the worst burn our teacher had ever seen. Goggles with tears floating up to my eyeballs and the inability to move my injured hand for weeks. I was 17, following my strengths and seeing that the sacrifice wasn’t worth the payout.

?  That time my book didn’t get published even though I sent it out for a poetry contest I was sure I would win. I was 21, trying to share my gifts with the world.  (And eventually I published that book anyway.)

?  That time I closed my photography studio and was sure Brand Camp would have to die with it, ’cause no one listens to people who aren’t photographers. Instead: book deal, ebooks, programs, coaching, the constant unfolding of the path. I was 30, honoring my deepest instincts.

?  That time I was floating in the middle of the ocean and slammed my kayak paddle down and said, “I want a divorce.” I was 32, honoring the voices within me that didn’t want to be married anymore, and hadn’t for quite some time.

?  That time I held an event called Brand Camp for 132 peeps in the mountains of Pennsylvania and lost over $43,000. I was 33, listening to every impulse within me that wanted to create something lovely and daring, big and bold and unpredictable. (WHEW BOY was it unpredictable.) I had never felt so connected to my purpose for being on this planet.

Getting around the rules, listening to my body, delighting in my senses, following my strengths, sharing my gifts, honoring my deepest instincts and the voices within me, creating something lovely and daring and big and bold and unpredictable.

If you take those side effects out of context, they sound so innocent. But each one came with a price, and that price was failure. The same is true for you.

You try and it doesn’t work. You tweak your goals, you give up on some dreams looking like you’d planned, you dig yourself out of debt (or loss or shame or grief or terror) and you find a way to move on.

When you catalog your failures, big or small, devastating or mildly entertaining, remember that they’re the ways you learn to make meaning. We humans often learn our deepest lessons through pain and failure and seemingly endless inner torture. We recommit to a hasty decision despite every fiber of our being screaming that we shouldn’t. We give up on dreams we held for years for what seems like no reason. We keep eating bigger and bigger bowls of ice cream.

With time, we make meaning. We get to see the little Kristen, a second grader lying peacefully on the floor, and realize that she’s rebelling in her own way. It’s a quiet, gentle rebellion that doesn’t give a fuck about what her teacher thinks.

We see the seeds that yield meaning later in life. When you look back at how freaking HARD life is right now, and how much you believe yourself to be failing in some areas, you’ll see the seeds beginning to blossom.

Without giving up on being valedictorian, I would have way more burn scars all over my body, not just my right hand.

Without Brand Camp, I wouldn’t have known how deeply committed I am to having a business.

Without giving up on my marriage, I wouldn’t have met the love of my life.

Grab those 5 big failures you wrote down, and fill in the blanks:

Without _________________, I wouldn’t have _________________.

Without _________________, I wouldn’t have _________________.

Without _________________, I wouldn’t have _________________.

Without _________________, I wouldn’t have _________________.

Without _________________, I wouldn’t have _________________.

Once you can see why your failures are absolutely necessary pieces of your magical puzzle, we can go deeper to actively create more meaning.

This is just the beginning!  Keep listening to this episode of That’s What She Said:

P.S. Magic often feels like broken.