The Beauty of Failure

Ouch. I co-facilitated a half-day workshop this week that was a dud. Not a catastrophe, but certainly not a Top 10 Performance.  Here are four things I learned.

Some background first: We were invited to lead a workshop on how to clarify God’s purpose and calling for a group of Christian CEO’s and entrepreneurs. I’ve been in these venues 50-60 times before in my life. But this crowd was unique in that I have never met a group with such a high percentage of people so confident in their callings.

The result was that every teaching point and exercise was met with “ho-hum”, “been-there-done-that”, “no duh” and “tell-me-something-I-don’t-already-know” types of reactions. I walked out dejected.

Here’s what I learned about failure and how it’s good for the soul:

Failure makes you rethink your heart:  Was I too much on auto-pilot and not sensitive to adjusting to their needs? Was I trying to change people instead of helping them? How has this setback impacted my view of myself, my worth, my work? Working with successful people in their 40’s and 50’s for a dozen years has revealed that many of them haven’t failed in a while.  And when they do, it’s so painful that some stop risking and go back to the sub-optimized life of status quo and comfort zones. I hope I don’t go that route.

Failure makes you rethink your approach:  A little shakeup like this has me wondering if I should change my approach.  I certainly don’t want to over-react when the process we used usually serves us well, but it’s never a bad thing to test assumptions. Am I getting too “teachy” or too sloppy?  If I were to completely redesign things, what might that look like?

Failure makes you rethink who is in control: The founder of the Halftime Institute (Bob Buford) taught me that ministry is different from business: Business is measured in profits.  Ministry is measured in improved lives. And only the Holy Spirit can really change a heart and a life.  My job is to creatively point people toward Jesus and the Kingdom of God.  The rest is up to God.

Control is an illusion.  Effort, creativity, and prayerfulness are completely in our control. Results are not. Thinking otherwise will drive you crazy.

Failure makes me rethink the big picture: This incident is a blip on the radar. Overall, it’s not that big of a deal. I have my health, a wife whom I love and loves me back, three wonderful kids, a handful of co-workers and friends I enjoy, I’ve never had to skip a meal and I have a roof over my head. It’s all good.

Jeff Spadafora6 Comments