Face to face with the person who (amost) failed me

February 17, 2022

This past weekend I FINALLY got to meet up with my OG soulful strategy team. I think we talked are grazed for 5 hours straight. No one remembered to take a picture. Though I did take a picture of the platter I made. There’s a bit of Taurus/Virgo in my otherwise VERY Gemini chart somewhere who just LOVES to make a pretty grazing platter for people. It’s basically a mindful mandala with food.

Somehow we got onto talking about flashbulb memories.
It’s basically like a multisensory, extremely vivid file that your brain brings up during significant life events. Like, where were you and what were you doing when Princess Diana died or you learned about September 11 for the first time.
The topic of conversation led to the shared of experience (*cough* trauma bonding *cough*) experience that is having someone want to fail your thesis.
Last year I signed up for a psychology conference online. It was quite general, there were a range of speakers and I figured it was a low-key way to get in a few more CPD points (something I’ve struggled to scrape together over these past couple of years).
It was a Sunday morning. I was scrolling through the list of presenters for a conference I signed up to. I was sitting next to my husband in bed. I casually said out loud “where do I know that name from?…”
I hadn’t had my coffee yet, or I’m sure I would have spat it out.
That’s the [insert expletive] who tried to fail my thesis!”
If you don’t know the saga of my PhD thesis, I’ll keep it brief. I was 10 or 11 years into fulltime uni study. To say I was completely and utterly over uni and research is an understatement, but I submitted my thesis and naively thought “won’t be long now”.  I’m sure I said the same thing in weeks 41 and 42 of my pregnancies…
Anyway, after more than 6 long months of waiting to get feedback from my external examiners, I decided to go on holiday to the USA.
At 3AM my phone rang. I let it go to voice mail but glanced at the screen.  I saw it was my supervisor who never phones. I check the voice mail. It’s a really bad connected but I hear her say “don’t worry and we’ll sort “it out”.
Of course, I immediately start worrying and catastrophizing that I’m going to fail my PhD and never sort it out.
For my thesis I had two examiners. Apparently my thesis is polarizing.
Examiner 1 gives me the highest mark, suggests minimal changes and sings my praises.
Examiner 2 basically fails me. Not a flat fail, but pages and pages of notes basically saying “it’s not good enough” and a list of things I need to fix.
So, obviously I still passed. I’m giving you the Reader’s Digest version of my experience here. But it took a LOT of arguing back and forth from me, my supervisor and My Head of School to get me through.
The examiner who wanted to fail me might be a lovely person, but they didn’t read my thesis properly. They also clearly wanted my topic to be about something else.
Half of their comments about what I should have written about were about a topic that had nothing to do with my thesis. And, at 715 pages, they wanted me to add more chapters (a standard PhD thesis is around 150 pages). How about no?
What was the lesson?
You can’t please everyone, even if you work really hard on something. Spend five minutes in the comments section of a TED talk or on the GoodReads page for any popular book, and you’ll find messages and messages of criticism.
There will be people who misunderstand, diss or fail your work. It doesn’t mean they are correct. You will, 100% encounter people who don’t get your message, don’t read your message, or don’t warm to your work for whatever reason. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong mood – there’s so many factors that go into a ‘failure’.
It reminds me of an interview with Courtney Taylor Taylor from the Dandy Warhols talking about what goes into a achieving a hit song.
He was basically saying Bohemian Like You should have been, could have been a hit song but instead it was their lowest charting single. People didn’t get what they were trying to do, perhaps their record label dropped the ball. There are so many tiny factors go into making a hit a hit.
Let me also remind you that the first 3 months of launching birth Trauma Training for Birth Workers I only made one sale. I thought I’d well and truly bombed, yet I now have well over 2600 students.
Fail hard. Fail fast and do it again and again because smart girls need to get more comfortable with failing 😊
The failures turn into blog posts, supervision stories, books, and sometimes even courses. I’m going to be putting the final touches on course Creation for the Caring professions really soon. It’s basically everything I wish someone had taught me about course creation 5 years ago
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As always, thank you for reading and sharing. Sitting down to write my weekly email is one of the true highlights of my work week 🙂


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I specialise in birth trauma and perinatal mental health. I also write books, create courses & provide clinical supervision & business mentoring.


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