The Gift of Failure

One of the reasons people stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.
John W. Gardner

 

 

 John Gardner said a mouthful.

There is something amazingly freeing about not pretending. About speaking truth, taking that huge exhale and letting go…even if it means embarrassing yourself. Even if it means failing.

 Funding is often linked to success and we all  have the voices in our head telling us we MUST be successful or potentially lose future grants and donations, or lose volunteers or damage your brand.

  It is hard for organizations to admit to their mistakes, making it even more difficult to learn from them. We cannot ask tough questions about our mistakes if we do not admit to having them.  I am here to tell you something that we in the nonprofit world sometime forget- opportunity and risk go hand in hand. They go together, like peas and carrots.

Risk-chance of something going wrong: the danger that injury, damage, or loss will occur. Risks are simply future issues that can be avoided or mitigated, rather than present problems that must be immediately addressed.

When taking a risk there is also a chance of something going absolutely right.

I believe in taking calculated risks in order to learn what works best.

By iterating and making strategic adjustments we discover what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t.  Sometimes this means making mistakes, but it’s how we manage these mistakes that produces positive results.

The mistake itself is not important. Everyone makes mistakes! It is the conditions that led to the mistake which are most important. It is how we reflect on these conditions that determines the future value of the mistake. And it is how we grow, learn and change as a result of the mistake that can turn failure into success. After all, the only true mistake is the one we never learn from.

Ultimately it’s not about making mistakes. It is about lessons learned and growing into a stronger, more effective organization.  It is our job to hold all of us in the nonprofit world accountable. To leverage the learning’s of the many, to  share our failures with dignity and courage, and keep asking tough questions. We must have courage to bet on our ideas, to take the calculated risk, and to act. Everyday living requires courage if life is to be effective and bring happiness.

In the words of Erica Jong-If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.

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