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When Deals Fall Apart

The reflective system I use when faced with failure.

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When the deal falls apart unexpectedly, it’s not about the deal itself.  

What I’ve learned in the last year as one of the larger deals in my career fell apart is that many of the outcomes I was wrapped up in had nothing to do with the deal itself. 


[Spoiler Alert: All of the difficulties I am about to lay out create a beautiful arc that only a perfect universe can deliver. There will be a perfect ending, of course.]


All the tantalizing aspects of this deal made my ego jump into the driver’s seat. Because this was the biggest deal to come my way since starting my business 9 years ago, my ego wanted to manage it exclusively. And like all ego-dealings, this was the promise of a brand new me. It would fix all the holes, and supply all the freedoms both retroactively and into the future. A perfect bow on my life’s work. 

I’m here to say that as hip as failure has become in start-up speak and Silicon Valley culture, we can’t rebrand it to feel good. It can be hard. 

Really, really hard – and scary. Especially when the ego is driving. 

Here’s what happened. 

I was approached by a group of business people who were interested in the brand we had built in Kaufman Development and they were interested in purchasing many of our assets. It was a non-local developer who expressed what seemed to be a pretty sweet deal. They liked what we did, how we did it, and they believed in the business. Our values seemed to be aligned since they loved our work culture and how we extend our principles into how we design spaces. With that, it felt, almost, like a spiritual alignment. 

But things were not happening in the right order. What I didn’t see is they hadn’t raised the money. They were overpromising and under-delivering, and there was a real lack of an ability to execute. That became very clear as the deal fell apart.

I didn’t see those things because I was caught up in the dream:  their appreciation of our work, the team we had built, the communities we had built. It was so satisfying to hear, and I was experiencing this sense that finally someone was noticing the details of how we work. That was (and still is) deeply satisfying. 

They said all the right things, and promised me many of our dreams and desires, and the reality is they had none of the capabilities to follow through on the deal itself. 

And so when the deal fell apart, I was surprisingly rocked. 

What had happened to all of my dreams? Why had I wasted so much time and money?! 

Was it another ego trap? Shouldn’t I have known better? 

Well, I didn’t know better. And so here come the learnings and a return to my world view as my shining light. 

My worldview. 

Everything is happening as it is meant to be. Nothing dies, nothing is wasted. All mistakes, honest efforts are all a part of the grand architecture. Things are always alive and working, even if they appear to be dead. In fact, things can come back alive. We must surrender to the truth of energy, not our perceptions of what it is doing. 

Love, trust, surrender. This is my worldview. 

I believe too, that the architecture of our thinking is exposed in moments of failure, and so we can gain great lessons during these frustrating and challenging stretches of time. My job now is to take the time to reverse engineer what happened. If I do take the time to reflect, to get honest, then the answers to the two most important questions come into focus: 

Who is the ‘I am’?

What do I really want to create? 

Here’s what I know now.

Lesson #1: I am not in control.  

The ultimate learning is that we are not in control. It’s the surrender and the belief that this was right to fall through and trust that this was practice, necessary and perfect prep for the next test. 

Lesson #2: Fear & Looking Good.

Fear or looking good, two sides of the same coin, are common motivations for my success. In review, I have to ask myself: was looking good or fear (both inner child programming) driving me to close this deal? 

I was filled with disappointment, frustration and even anger with the people I was striking this deal with – what does this teach me? 

It’s tricky, that inner child, the ego, it smuggles it’s way in, with new disguises, but I’m learning and recognizing it more and more. No shame, nothing wrong, nothing wasted, just awakening, more learning and a greater expansion. 

The beauty of this moment is I can only see this shadow side by not closing the deal. This is more valuable and exactly what I needed.  

As with many things that don’t manifest, I’m lucky that it didn’t go through. 

Lesson #3: Take stock of my successes, too. 

Going through the rigorous process of trying to make a deal allows us to get organized, and that work is never wasted. The silver lining is seeing how my team and I have made our company successful with a culture that supports each other on a personal and professional level. We have made a lot of beautiful buildings together. We have integrity as a company. We treat each other with respect. We value fun, creativity, our individual paths. All of this was attractive to the people on the other side of the transaction. Going through this potential deal was like putting our collective resume together, I was able to see all that we had accomplished, and I was – I am – full with gratitude. 

I would suggest that although failure is a hard, unforgiving mirror, we can use this moment to look at the full picture – we should take stock of our successes in the moment of failure. Finding the equilibrium is our responsibility even. 

Lesson #4: Trigger improvements. 

I also learned how we can improve as a company. Examining our company so closely showed us exactly where we can improve. As a team, I see the spaces that we can shore each other up better, and how we can present ourselves with excellence to reflect our excellence better. And I can see what our next project can be, and how we can do it better. And I can see how I can insure against falling for a transaction like this again. I know better what you can trust and what you have to really investigate in situations like these, and so I know how to do it better next time. 

I can take advantage of the opening to self-assess, and learn where I can improve — what Strategic Coach calls, “The experience transformer”, a tool that allows you to write out and index the experience to concretize any learnings. 

Because there’s always another deal.

Lesson #5: Let others in. 

After the deal died, I needed support. I needed to process what happened and what I should do next, and I found myself scrambling to figure out why I was alone with my disappointment. 

A Bulit-to-Lead melody line played in my head, “It’s lonely at the top.” 

I realized somewhat quickly, somewhat slowly that I’m the person who always asks how you are doing before you have a chance to ask me. Asking “how are you” is of genuine interest to me. But through this experience, it occured to me that when I’m asking you how you are it is potentially a distraction from what’s happening with me. I am distancing myself from those around me. I’m not sharing what’s happening, so when something really happens, I don’t have necessary, effortless support from those I’m close to. This is complex because it takes me opening up first, laying the groundwork, stepping into truth, and then sharing with a few who are ready to just listen.  

Even if a deal has privacy surrounding it, I can let my closest friends know what I’m involved in so they are there for my wins and my losses. 

We need each other. I think this is something so easily forgotten. I think I forget it each and every day. 

The Gravity Project

How it all turned out perfectly. 

Because the word got around about this deal, we attracted a real offer. And that deal has gone through. 

It is a humbling success for everyone involved. 

It’s exciting, satisfying, and it feels good to have a deal of such scale work out with great integrity on both sides of the table. 

I’m re-energized to continue to build the Gravity community with an even bigger second phase, while following my calling into coaching, speaking, podcasting, building, dreaming and lovingly navigating life. 

Everything came full circle with precise harmony. This is what I also know. And this is my greatest belief. Everything is always working in our favor and with a precision only a perfect universe is capable of.  

And so, when a deal falls apart, it’s time to see how we’ve tended to our gardens without succumbing to either self-shaming or self-aggrandizement, we make the necessary changes to grow. 


Note to readers: The Gravity Podcast has launched! If you want to hear more stories on how we can expand the human experience, please subscribe at Spotify, Itunes, or anywhere else you get your podcasts. 

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