You may have noticed that I’m not big on focusing on failure, negatives, or anything of the sort as it typically doesn’t inspire others (nor myself) to reach greater heights of success on a personal or professional level. Notwithstanding, I wanted to share a few experiences I’ve had this year that, although disappointing, have taught me greatly, and I’m hoping they might touch you in some way as well. Here goes:

1. Failed Buy-In for a Culture of Content Marketing

For me, this was the year of the content marketing workshop. After having left my swimming pool company in the hands of my two amazing partners 18 months ago, I was able meet with multiple companies and give workshops on what it truly means to have a culture of content marketing—one where every employee sees themselves as a teacher of what they do, with a voice that needs to be heard by the world.

From these workshops, many such cultures have been established, some of which you’ll see described with in-depth case studies during the coming year. Notwithstanding, two of the companies have not taken off at all since my departure. Despite my best efforts, and despite the fact that they fully believe content marketing will work–especially if all the employees participate–they just haven’t done anything.

For me, as one who prides himself in helping others “get it and go,” such inaction is painful to watch. Furthermore, I hate rendering a service where I get paid and despite it being very much out of my control, the results don’t come.

Content Marketing Friends

Despite not achieving a 100% success rate of “action” from all my workshops, many companies have flourished. Three of the companies– Block Imaging, US Waterproofing, and Yale Appliance–all attended CMW with me where we had our own little “mini-conference,” something that was a highlight of my year.

This being said, cultures aren’t force-fed, and sometimes the organization simply isn’t ready.

2. Failed Hirings of Chief Content Officers

Often times when I consult with companies it works something like this: Workshop –>Hire CCO–> everyone produces content –> I oversee the campaign for 6 months until the company is off to the races.

So just as 2012 was the year of the “Content Marketing Workshop,” it was also the year of “Hire and Train Chief Content Officers” to carry the culture forward when I’m gone.

Most of the CCOs (or whatever you want to call them, I’m not particular about acronyms) have done incredibly well, but there was one occasion when I hired a CCO for a company and the individual simply didn’t work out. From that experience (and others), I’ve learned that great CCOs have the following qualities(as well as many others):

  • They are incredibly social within the organization in the sense that they laugh lots, smile lots, and know how to make friends with everyone.
  • They love to write and edit content.
  • They are passionate about analytics.
  • They are willing to try new things and push the envelope.
  • They know when to fold ’em, and know when to hold ’em.

As you can see, a great CCO has some special qualities, and the more CCOs I hire and train, the better I’m becoming at identifying a good fit from a bad fit. Notwithstanding, it hurts when a company counts on you to find an employee and train him/her to lead them to content marketing greatness and it doesn’t work out whatsoever.

3. My Screw-Up Keynoting Content Marketing World

As some of you may recall, I gave the keynote at Content Marketing World this year. About 12 months ago, when I found out I’d been chosen for the slot, I literally shed tears of joy. And over the next 11 months, I thought, and pondered, and thought, and pondered over what that talk was going to look and sound like for hours upon hours. But I made one mistake in all this preparation—a mistake someone with my experience should never make—I didn’t account (at least not well) for the length of the presentation.

Content Marketing World

Birds-eye view of my CMW 2012 Keynote

Because of this error, Joe Pulizzi had to come up on stage 65 minutes into my keynote and let me know I was over time.

He was kind enough to let me finish, and after rushing through the final slides, I ended up going about 15 minutes over what my allotted time was for the session. What was supposed to end in a bang clearly didn’t match the vision I’d laid out in my head. And despite the fact that the tweets, feedback, and response from the keynote were overwhelmingly positive, to this day I cringe at my error and am bothered that I wasn’t my best when I wanted it most. Joe had been kind enough to entrust me with 60 minutes to his entire audience and I took 75…Not cool, hard lesson learned.

Gratefully, Joe immediately laughed it off, but you can be assured I will not make that mistake ever again.

I’m sure I could discuss some other “learning experiences” from 2012 but I think that will suffice. Needless to say though, I’m grateful to have such experiences, and to learn from each. And I also know 2013 will bring with it another set of challenges but without question, I’m excited for what it will bring, and hope we’ll walk the path together. :-)

Your Turn:

If you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about some of your biggest professional disappoints of 2012. What did you learn from the experience? And how do you envision 2013 for you professionally?

As always, your thoughts and support are appreciated.

37 thoughts on “My 3 Biggest Professional Disappointments of 2012

  1. Marcus, I’m sure that a man of your caliber shouldn’t worry when you go over 15 minutes. If they asked you to do the keynote speech, surely they expected you to go over! And as for the crowd, I’m sure they loved it! I know I could sit and listen to you for hours…

    I wouldn’t call going 15 minutes over a mistake. I would call it a blessing for the audience. However, I’m sure it was weird when the guy came up to you while you were talking to let you know that you were going over…awkward! I’m sure that made you feel really good!

    People need to realize that when they set a time frame for guys like you they should know that you’re going to go over. And I know what you may say, that you should have been more professional, and kept to your time, but when people go to hear you, they want to hear what you have to say, and would be happy to hear everything.

    I wouldn’t worry about that one bro!

    • Your positive words are very kind Wade, thanks so much for all your support!

      Merry Christmas my friend!!


  2. Hi Marcus,
    I am a lot like you that I don’t like to focus much on failures either but I totally respect what you shared here today. We need to know that other successful people fail/come up short so to speak. So in a way it was encouraging to read this post.

    Thanks for sharing and take care. :)

    • Justin, so glad you found the post enjoyable, and hope your 2013 is a wonderful one sir!


  3. joe

    Marcus, I found out more and respect even more about the MAN named Marcus. I can only think of how I would be, the first couple are disappointments, but real guts is the third.

    I had a strange feeling in my stomach as you described going over that much that they come to fetch you from the stage.

    Progress not Perfection my friend. That’s what they tell me at my AA group all the time. You are the man…Your Father and family are proud of you as am I..

    Can’t stumble upon anything by standing still. Have a safe/happy Christmas Holiday.

    • Joe, so very great to see you swing by my friend. Love your perspective and outlook sir.

      Hope your 2013 is a wonderful one Joe :-)


  4. Hi Marcus,
    Thanks for sharing. I am totally wanting to focus on what you teach for 2013, starting to implement that as we speak. Very excited! I for one would not have minded listening to you speak over the 1 hour, but I understand from your point of view how that would bother you. All we can do is live and learn. We don’t ever learn if we don’t make any mistakes. Wishing a Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    • You’re too sweet Lana!something tells me you’re going to have quite the 2013!!!

      Thanks so much for your kindness and hope your Christmas is a wonderful one!


  5. Marcus I can relate to over running! A few years back I was given an hour and went on for two hours. I couldn’t believe how quickly the time went. Lesson learnt.

    • Indeed Andy!! Have a wonderful 2013 sir!


  6. Hi Marcus…well, I guess you have two disappointments here, because as for #3, you rocked it. Yes, you went over. It happens. The last thing I wanted to do was tell you that you were going over because not one person in that audience wanted you to stop. You were THAT good.

    Marcus…you are one of the true good guys in this industry. Thank you for everything that you are doing.

    And as for my faith in you as a speaker, you can know for sure that I want you back in 2013. You need to come back and finish what you started my friend.

    Here’s to an amazing 2013!

    • You’re as goos as they come JP. Thanks for all you’ve done for me my friend and I so very much appreciate being able to come back for what I’m sure will be an amazing 2013. Even better, we’re not even out of chapter one w all this stuff 😉

      May your Christmas season w the fam be an amazing one my friend.


  7. Hi Marcus
    An awesome year for you after all, and many successes to come from having learnt from your mistakes, so don’t worry!
    My biggest failure of the year has been to not take any action since two months ago: i’ve read a lot about internet marketing, productivity, happiness, i’m interested in those subjects and i knew that somehow i needed to start something… but it took me until october to actually start something. But my biggest success is this one: i finally got started and i took the first step on my path to changing and inspiring the world (ok it sounds pretentious but its not, i just want to help others :-))

    • It doesn’t sound pretentious whatsoever Nicolas. In fact, I think it sounds great. And the fact that you “launched” Nicolas says so much about who you are. Keep pushing!!


  8. Love the honesty, Marcus! While these may not be truly “failures,” it’s nice knowing that you face challenges and obstacles just as the rest of us do. Sure, we’re not doing keynotes at Content Marketing World, but still a refreshing read. Your humanness, transparency and honesty are part of what make you such an awesome read.

    Have a great one, my man!

    • Jon, you’ve been so incredibly kind to me this past year, I can’t thank you enough…and I’ll try my best in keeping it “real” even more so in 2013.

      Wishing you an incredible Christmas and New Year w the fam my friend.


  9. Marcus,

    Thanks for being introspective and vulnerable. If I sat down and thought about it, I could probably fill a book on my disappointments and regrets of things that didn’t work out quite they way I initially visualized.

    A few thoughts:

    1. Welcome to the world of process consulting, training, and coaching. Many times companies that have paid good money for the advice struggle on the execution. It’s helpful to have an initial engagement/execution that gets them going in the right direction.

    Most training by itself is useless since the vast majority of companies get excited for a few weeks and then go back to whatever they used to do. Having agreed upon expectations with the company from the workshop is useful, along with an initial coaching/execution plan.

    2. Hiring is basically flawed. If all you failed at was one hire out of multiple hires you’re doing quite well. The average for success in hiring for most managerial and executive roles is at best 50%. Pat yourself on the back if your success rate is higher.

    3. Don’t sweat going over the time limit – it’s part of the experience of learning how to speak to a variety of groups. Learning how to precisely time your presentation comes with experience. Hint: I never “wing” a presentation – I will rehearse it over and over until I’ve got the timing down into 15/30 second chunks – regardless of how well I know the content. Over the last 15 years, I’ve probably given well over 1000 presentations. Speaking before groups is a dramatically different skill set than running a company or giving advice. Again, I should write a book on all the mistakes, errors, regrets, and concerns I’ve had along the way. Consider it all part of what Covey called “sharpening the saw”.

    Keep up the great work in 2013. You’re in my top 10 list of content publishers and experts on inbound marketing.

    • Barry, wow my friend, this is as informative of a comment I’ve ever read here sir.

      I can only say thank you for adding so much wisdom to my introspection.

      May your Christmas and New Year be a wonderful one sir. :-)


  10. This year, I let some aggressive customers steer the ship after the project started.. It ended in flames every time and set me back for months. I could have been more confident, I could have done a lot of things.. But at the end of the day – I need to be the grown up – state my position – and get the job done.

    This year – I’m going to make it happen.. Like a boss.

  11. Dear Marcus,

    Your entry is very meaningful to me since I have just reviewed my career in 2012. Indeed, I failed in looking for the best job in social media marketing.

    The most valuable lesson that I have learned from my failures would be my background in marketing: “The writer” of Marketing is totally different “The writer” of Literature. Being a content marketer, I need to act like a sales lady not a romantic one.

    I am going to be a professional content marketer in 2013. The Sales Lion could help me a lot by your entries. Thanks your team and Happy New Year! :)

    • You’ve brought up such an interesting topic Thao, one that I think many in your shoes have also struggled with. I certainly wish you the best in finding that balance in 2013!!



  12. Not producing enough multimedia content, and not getting an assistant sooner. Both are things that skyrocket my business. I did them great in 2010 and 2012. And I’m already ready gearing up for 2013.

    • Love it Patrick! It is amazing how much difference an assistant can make. Well said sir :-)


  13. Hey Marcus,

    Like others have said in this thread! Its all about progress! Number 1 i can relate to! People say they get it! Im just not sure they do!

    For me my professional disapointment was jumping ship to another company that were in the inbound space to follow my passion and it not being the right role for me or them! Then having to return and ask for my old job back. It set everyone involved back a month or so.

    Im grateful im back however the content train had stopped while i was away and now it needs picking back up again! 2013 needs consistancy! :-)

    Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas and new year Marcus.

    David Shaw

    • Love your comment David, and it sounds like you had quite the eventful year…but I’m sure the brief time away from your current company brought much clarity to where you want to go here forward.

      Thanks for all your support David and Merry Christmas to you and your family.


  14. Hi Marcus – I feel your pain about going over time with the keynote but after listening to you and reading some of your content it’s obvious that your approach isn’t the calculated intentional goop that most of the experts preach.

    I’m sure the majority of the audience (not the experts) enjoyed the extra time they got from your keynote. When you start doing what you do to please your peers, you’ve forgotten who you’re supposed to be helping! If they punish you by not inviting you back they will be the looser not you… Better to hear someone with something to say go long than a rambling fool with a stopwatch!

    • Wow Joe, that’s awfully kind of you sir. Thank you!!

      Joe was ki nd enough to invite me back, so yes, there will be more opportunities still…and I hope your in the audience at some point Joe :-)

      Merry Christmas!


  15. The whole “life experience” would not be full without this. So, the smartest thing which you can do is learn from it – and as I can see the article showed that you can and will learn more and more as mistakes keep coming and go.

    • Well said Wendi, and thanks for stopping by. :-)

  16. I too stay away from focusing on the negative. But it’s good to go back once in a while and re-affirm lessons you’ve learned, and things you wish to improve upon, in the coming year.

    I found myself nodding a lot during this article. Even though I haven’t had those specific situations, I’ve been in ones similar, so it was a good reminder for me too.

    Happy New Year!

    • So glad you enjoyed it Felicity. Thank you :-)


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