“Sweet Irony” — Be Grateful for Unanswered Prayers

“Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers,” sings
country music legend Garth Brooks, who continues, “I guess
the Lord knows what he’s doin’ after all.”

And that’s one of the great lessons of life… to take a
leap of faith and experience what I call “sweet irony” –
how things that we fervently hope and pray for sometimes
don’t happen, yet we go on to find a tremendous “silver
lining surprise” in what seemed to be a dark cloud of

I don’t know about you, but I have several personal “sweet
irony” stories. I gladly share these with my coaching
clients who may be struggling with difficult situations. A
few of my “greatest hits” (which felt like body blows at the

* An apparent failure with my first coaching business
endeavor in 1982. I developed a prototype coaching program
over 20 years ago which became my first venture into
entrepreneurship. After only six months and a little bit of
debt, I came to the conclusion it wouldn’t work and told
myself, “Coaching is a bad idea — I’ll NEVER try that again
…” (What is it I do for a living today?)

At the time I had an easel pad with all of my coaching
instructions written on its pages — I recall throwing it in
the dumpster in a fit of despair. Several years later a
social worker friend of mine asked me what happened to my
coaching material — I told him I had tossed it out. He
asked me if I could recreate it, so I sat down and typed out
the outline, then mailed it to him, keeping a copy for

This outline turned into the basis of the two coaching books
I’ve authored and use to this day with my clients. The truth
was, I simply didn’t know enough about running a business
back in 1982… after learning more in subsequent years,
I’ve developed a thriving coaching practice.

* A romantic relationship setback with a woman who I thought
would be my partner for life — heck, we even got a dog
together! After having a brief pity party for my broken
heart, I began to make new dog-owner friends in my
neighborhood. One such couple invited me to their wedding
reception where I met a woman who is now my wife of 8 years.

The first relationship “went to the dogs” because I failed
to realize I was trying to rescue someone who didn’t want to
help herself. (That’s never happened to any of YOU, I
reckon… has it?) I needed to learn how to take great care
of myself to attract a great partner, so that “dog-gone”
involvement was just the wake-up call I needed.

* A broken agreement from a potentially sizable corporate
account that put me in dire financial straits at the time.
Everything seemed in place, when at the last minute the
branch manager of the firm announced his budget for my group
coaching project had suddenly “evaporated.”

This painful career development forced me to reconsider my
professional offering, and I found out I was much better
suited to the one-on-one business coaching I practice today.
Who knows how long I would have struggled along pursuing
corporate groups without this lighting bolt from seemingly

In each case I was emotionally devastated by these events,
which left me confused, scared and, worst of all, humbled by
doubts about my capability to attain success with these
greatly hoped and prayed for dreams. Yet in hindsight each
of these temporary defeats (although at the time they sure
seemed permanent) led me to something EVEN BETTER in my life
… now I look back and laugh!

I hope my stories here deliver a message of hope to each of
you who may be struggling with what appear to be unfortunate
circumstances. You can trust that everything works for a
reason, and everything works for the best — even the
painful transitions we all endure from time to time.

At these moments the words of Napoleon Hill in Think and
Grow Rich can be a measure of comfort: “Every adversity,
every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of
an equivalent or greater benefit.” Sage words to follow for
you to experience your own “sweet irony.”

Jim Rohrbach