The ‘hurt’ of professional failure


After arriving at the training ground at 5 a.m., as usual, David Moyes was informed at 7.30 a.m. that his services would no longer be required by Manchester United Football Club.  Ten months earlier, he had arrived at a pinnacle of his profession.  Now he was spinning earthwards, in free fall!

I have a much less important, but possibly comparable memory of terminated leadership, having resigned the headship of a comprehensive school, aged 50, after I had lost the confidence of those with power over me.  I was deeply angry – inwardly seething – about the way I was treated.  Half of me wanted to fight the injustice of it.  The other, perhaps wiser half recognised that I was probably too weak to win a fight.  Part of my problem was that I had worn myself down trying to succeed, so the feelings of anger were partly out of sheer frustration, because I had given so much that I was now, physically and emotionally, close to being a spent force.

This year, my training in Transactional Analysis has taught me something important about anger being displaced instead of productively expressed.  It has also taught me that I was ‘in script’ back then.  My overwork was a passive behaviour – over-adaptation (Schiff, J. et al 1975 The Cathexis Reader) caused by my own discounting of my human worthiness.  My ‘racket feelings’ and ‘script beliefs’ were all about inadequacy – and of course people and events readily conspired with me to reinforce them – as they always do, if invited!

I hope David Moyes finds the benefit, that I was fortunate to have, of some wise counsel that enables him to drop any old image of himself, that he might be tempted to cling to, which tells him he can only succeed through dogged determination and effort.  His future will be far richer if ‘Letting Go’ is what he next finds success with.  Drop the baggage and you will start floating gently back upwards again!  I speak from experience.

3 Responses to The ‘hurt’ of professional failure

  1. Neil hawkes says:

    Thank you Tim for helping us to be true to our authentic selves: the place where true happiness resides..

  2. Ann says:

    Thanks Tim, it was good to read about your experience as I have been in a similar position this year and have been feeling I haven’t been strong enough in getting justice, and yes I resorted to overwork to try and make things better! I am now just about to leave it all behind and move on to training for a new career, where I can really work with children on Values and emotional well-being, and your comments will help me to look forward and not back without feeling I failed. Exciting times ahead!

    • Tim Small says:

      Thanks for sharing this, Ann! Your experience resonates with mine – and I am glad to hear the note of optimism and excitement in your words. Letting go was what enabled me to enjoy the richest ten years of my professional life after headship and I wish you a similar story of enrichment and success on your own terms. Keep in touch! Tim

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