"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” —Winston Churchill (1874–1965).
I recently read a blog from one of my favorite companies called Bonobos. Bonobos is a US company that manufactures great pants and polos (the standard in dress for me). Andy Dunn, the CEO of Bonobos, recently blogged about two mistakes the company plans to make only once. They over-advertised and over-promoted the product. He vowed to only make those mistakes once.
What a great challenge - Learn from mistakes (don't stop there) and take action.
Thomas Edison was interviewed by a young reporter who boldly asked Edison if he felt like a failure. Perplexed, Edison replied, "Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp." And shortly after that, and over 10,000 attempts, Edison invented the light bulb.
I struggle with failure. I hate it. I never like loosing any game whether it's Candyland or football. Consequently, I do not attempt something if I fear that I will fail. One attitude that has transformed my anxiety is called self-differentiation. Self-differentiation enables a person to not become entangled with the anxious reaction usually accompanied by a failure (or loss). Here is a short essay on the concept and how it applies to church leadership.
John Maxwell in his book Failing Forward said, "When you fall down, pick up something [learn a lesson from the failure] while you are down there."
Here are the mistakes from 2009 that I plan only making once.
1. Heed the warning label. In January, I was prescribed Transderm Scop as a precaution for motion sickness before traveling in Israel. The warning read, "Some patients report dizziness after using patch for more than 3 days." I wore the patch for 14 days (insert laughter). And although I did not get sick in Israel, I was dizzy for two weeks after the trip. The lesson learned is to heed the warning label on prescriptions. Warning signs are important.
2. Be yourself and allow people to see you grow. Do you try to prove you are better than you are? I do. When we serve that constant pressure to prove to somebody that we are a good leader or a spiritual person or an able writer, then the spotlight is on us. That same pressure also sets us up to try too hard, get in the flesh, and do dumb things. Worst of all, it keeps us leading out of our insecurities instead of true humility. The lesson learned is about daily growth and authenticity.
3. Fail. I did not ask enough questions in 2009. I only gave only obvious solutions to problems.
It is easy to associate personal feelings with your questions or suggestions. Stop living under the self imposed pressure that you should have all the answers to every problem. Share the responsibility with someone you trust.
Jesus told his self-conscious, poor, and doubting apostles that just as the Father sent him so he sends them into the world (Jn 17:18; 20:21). Jesus entrusted them with greatest of all commissions (Matt. 28). Supposedly, I am to Lead like Jesus. I am learning. At times however, I cannot entrust people beyond menial office tasks. Jesus challenges and stretches me to not self-promote and self-protect, which are the leading motivations dominating most leadership landscapes.
There is a better way to lead. Whether you are a single mom parenting your child, a navy soldier overseeing a cadre, a friend who is risking image to befriend another not in your circle, or a teacher stimulating the minds of eight graders, Jesus' way of leadership is servanthood.
I hope you make mistakes, learn from them, and strive to lead like Jesus.