It's been almost two years, but it's that time again. What time is it? Why no other time than to celebrate failure. That's right, I am declaring the week of March 1-7 to be Celebrate a Failure week the world over. If you have read this Memo since the beginning, you will know that this is the fifth such celebration we have held since 2001. If you are new to the Memo, let me explain to you what Celebrate a Failure Week is all about.
THE GROUND RULES
I would recommend that you take every chance during the last week of February to talk about failure, its role in your life and the lessons you have learned from past failures. Here are some ideas of what you can do:
- If you are a pastor, you can talk about failure in your Sunday services on March 7 or during your midweek gatherings starting on Monday, March 1. Someone wrote me that there is no failure in the Bible. See if they're right. If not, then share what you find that can help people who have failed. You have plenty of them sitting right in front of you every Sunday.
- If you are a business leader, why not talk about failure with the other leaders and staff. Do you have any failures to celebrate as a business or team? What did you learn from them? What is stopping you from creating new failures? What could you possibly achieve today if you weren't afraid of trying and failing?
- You can celebrate as a family. You may want to study a biblical character who failed, like Samson, Moses, David or Peter. Maybe there is some family story of failure that can be discussed and examined. Maybe you can even focus on some historical figure like Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela or Winston Churchill, great leaders who also experienced great failures at some point.
- Classroom settings need not be left out of our celebration. If you teach, I would imagine that you can find enough teaching material to make up a classroom session or two. History and science are full of failures that eventually led to success, of failures that provide significant lessons for your students.
Why the need for such a celebration? And is it truly possible to celebrate failure? Should it not be tolerated at worst and avoided at best? We should celebrate failure because it is an inevitable part of life. We avoid failure because we believe it is somehow a measure of inadequate spirituality, and in some ways it is, because you will never measure up to the ideal of perfection on this side of heaven or the Lord's return. If you are going to do anything for God, whether to fulfill your purpose or achieve your goals, you will need to embrace the learning process that only failure can provide.
If I allow my life to be deformed by the fallen angel called “fear of failure,” I will never be fully alive. I will withhold myself from actions that might fail, or ignore evidence of failure when it happens. But if I could ride that fear all the way down, I might break out of my self-imposed isolation and become connected with many other lives, because failure and the fear of it are universal. I would learn that failure is a natural fact, a way of discerning what to try next. I would be empowered to take more risks, which means to embrace more life, and in the process I would become more connected with others. The monster called fear of failure (or ridicule, criticism, or foolishness, or any of the other fears that are so easy to regard as mortal enemies) would become a demanding but empowering guide toward relatedness.
But on this side of such an experience, we may wonder why we should anywhere near the monsters, let alone ride them all the way down. After all, they are monsters, and they do harbor powers of destruction as well as of creativity. Even if riding the monsters is the only way to reach safe ground, there is no guarantee that we will get there. People have fallen off before the end of the journey and have been stranded in some bad places. So why take the risk of riding the monsters in the first place?
[The reason is that] some monsters simply will not go away. They are too big to walk around, too powerful to overcome, too clever to outsmart. The only way to deal with them is to move toward them, with them, through them. We must learn to befriend some of these primitive powers that seem so much like enemies. In the process we will find them working for us, not against us, working for life, not death.
What are you afraid of? Is some past failure or the fear of a future one keeping you ineffective and paralyzed? Are you so afraid of missing God’s will for your life that you are missing God’s will for your life? This is why we need a Celebrate a Failure Week. It's not to glorify failure but to set the stage for success. That may not make sense at this point, but if you follow along for the next few weeks, I think you'll understand how it works.
So get ready for a big celebration, for we all have some colossal failures to celebrate and some important lessons to review. We want to get failure working for us and not against us, so with that in mind, let the party begin. Have a great week as you make preparations for the big event.
STILL NEED HELP: I just posted an update on my upcoming trip to Kenya entitled 100 Pairs of Shoes. I leave for Kenya on February 5 with 13 others and I am still collecting money and supplies to take over with us. If you haven't already done so, please take the time to read this latest update on the Sophia Fund and the Deborah Foundation here. As you read, you will understand what a difference you can make in a child's life with very little effort or investment.
If you feel compelled to help our upcoming trip, you can give through my website or send a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 91099, Pittsburgh, PA 15221. Just let me know if your contribution is to be used for food or shipping and I promise to use it for that purpose. Just $5 will help me feed an orphan for a week! Do what you can and please do it today.
KENYA: We have decided to reschedule the training I had planned to do when I come in February until June or July. I will keep you informed of the dates and other pertinent information you will need to register.