Friday, June 24, 2011

The Trial of Failure

** Reposted from Stirred Up Leadership, blog of the US Willow Creek Association.

Below is an excerpt from 2011 Global Leadership Summit speaker Seth Godin’s new book, Poke the Box.

“This will end up in crying” was the warning my mom would announce when she encountered a situation between my sisters and me, one that was fraught with sibling misbehavior. And that’s the way some people think about a career built on initiative.

Most things break. Most ideas fail. Most initiatives don’t succeed. And if you’re the one behind them, if you’re the guy who’s always starting something that fails, then it seems you’re doomed. After all, our society loves to do the failure dance. (The victory dance, not so much. The victory dance feels like bragging. But the schadenfreude of the failure dance—that’s just fine.) Watch a football game or listen to the analysis of a political campaign or read a magazine’s account of a failed business venture—it’s easy for us to point fingers, to find blame, to gleefully critique the things that went wrong.

Oprah has had failed shows, failed projects, failed predictions. She starts something every day, sometimes a few times a day, and there’s a long, long list of things that haven’t worked out. No one keeps track of that list, though, because the market (and our society) has such respect for the work she’s done that has succeeded. Mehmet Oz has lost patients. Mark Cuban has backed failed businesses. The more you do, the more you fail.

Let’s think about the sort of failure we’re talking about. Not the failure of disrespect, of the shortcut that shouldn’t have been taken or the shoddy work of someone who doesn’t care. No, we’re talking about the failure of people with good intent, people seeking connection and joy and the ability to make a difference.
No one is suggesting that you wing it in your job at the nuclear power plant, or erratically jump from task to task instead of studying for the upcoming SAT. Hard work is going to be here no matter what. The kind of initiative I’m talking about is difficult because it’s important and frightening and new.

If you sign up for the initiative path and continue on it when others fret about “quality” and “predictability,” you will ultimately succeed. The crowd won’t stop worrying, because worrying is what they enjoy doing. But that’s okay, because you’ll be making a difference and using your new found leverage to do more and more work that matters.

So… our question for you is: When will you start down the initiative path and start something? What’s stopping you from starting today?

Taken from Poke the Box by Seth Godin. Copyright ©2011 by Do You Zoom Inc.

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