May 24, 2024
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May 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Ten years ago, I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life.

Or so I thought at the time.

I was still living in Atlanta but would be moving soon to New Jersey.Even as I prepared to relocate with my family, I was unsure whether I’d stay in school leadership or move into coaching. One of the positions I was pursuing was a part-time principal position. Truth is, it really wasn’t the best fit for me, and I knew it. But there was little else available, and I wasn’t sure that I was quite ready to support a family in one of the most expensive markets on a brand-new coaching practice with zero clients.

At some point in the interview process, I asked an innocent question which made my would-be boss skeptical about hiring me. He eventually decided to pass on my candidacy. At the same time, I had completed training for a coaching program that would have allowed me to coach in New York City schools. But, the director decided that when working with their teachers I would be too much principal and too little coach, which would mean lots of directing and too little coaching.

While I disagreed with her assessment, I was now 0 for 2, with few prospects on tap. Things were not looking good. Thankfully, things started to turn in my favor, though it would take some time until I really built some momentum.

But one thing from that harrowing period is clear. What seemed like a curse turned out to be a huge blessing. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed that principalship. The boss is a tough guy and I’m not sure how we would have clicked. Even if we had, it would have precluded me from school-based coaching, which for a bunch of years was my bread and butter and remains as a central component of my work. So, though I was disappointed and despondent at the time, my “mistake” turned out to be a huge blessing!

Which reminds me of the story of the Chinese farmer. Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all his neighbors came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.”

The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it. In the evening, everybody came back and said, “What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again said, “Maybe.”

The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, and while riding it he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad.” The farmer responded, “Maybe.”

The next day, the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army. They rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again, the neighbors came around and said, “Isn’t that great?” Again: “Maybe.”

Life presents many ups and downs. At the time, the ups look good and the downs seem to be bad.

But we never know how things will turn out. Only a belief in God that “it’s all for the best.”


Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, is an executive coach and president of Impactful Coaching and Consulting (impactfulcoaching.com). He can be reached at (212) 470.6139 or at [email protected].

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