It's finally here. It's time to celebrate a failure! In case you missed it, I have declared this week Celebrate a Failure week, asking that you take some time this week to focus on the important role that failure has played in your life or the lives of others. If I ask you to do that, it's only fair that I do the same, so here is a reprint of my all-time favorite professional failure.
THE WORST CONFERENCE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD
When I worked for Integrity Music, I helped plan and organize the worst conference in the history of the world! Our team was scheduled to be in Dallas, and we thought registrations were coming in slowly, but didn't think there was anything to worry about. Then we learned right before we were scheduled to be there that the postal service had lost our brochures, all 50,000 of them. Only a handful were delivered and that explained the low response.
Instead of canceling the event, we pulled out all the stops to spread the word that we were coming, confident we could still have a successful event. Were we ever mistaken! On the first night of the event, we had less than 1,000 people in a church that seated 5,000. Right after we started the event, the sound system failed. When I returned from trying to work in the audio booth, I saw Ron Kenoly on stage playing the guitar and trying to lead worship. (Ron isn't known for his guitar-playing skills, believe me.) When he asked for the words to come up on the screen, it was then we realized that the projection system had malfunctioned. The bulb burned out and the church didn't have a spare.
I ran backstage to try and print off some sheets with the words on them only to discover that the copy machine was broken. I got up to take an offering and apologized, saying that I felt like I should be paying anyone who happened to be there that evening. To make matters worse, the event went on to lose about $15,000. I realized that weekend that a bad event is like flushing a toilet. Once you flush, there isn't any way you can stop the process; you just have to let it run its course.
I had two choices after that disastrous weekend. The first was to quit, which I briefly considered. The second was to take three months between Dallas and our next scheduled event and study what went wrong. I chose the latter and we went through everything we did. We came up with a number of innovations and built in more than a few safeguards to make sure what happened in Dallas would never happen again.
By God's grace, our next event was a fantastic success. We introduced some changes that generated quite a bit of revenue, and our team was better prepared and focused. Today I thank God for that terrible Dallas event and some others that followed. I learned more from those failures than I ever did from the good events. I also learned that a bad event isn't the end of the world.
When a baseball player strikes out or a soccer player misses an open goal, they don't go off the field and sit in the stands. They keep playing through their failure. In practice, they work on their technique but in the game they keep swinging and kicking. That's what you and I need to do as well.
Don't ever let your failures discourage you, and don't give up on your dream. Accept that failure is a part of every successful person's life, even your own. Adjust your expectations, but don't quit! Today I can organize great events because I organized some poor ones.
So bring out the confetti! Put up the banners and inflate the balloons. We have some celebrating to do! Don't let Celebrate a Failure Week end without taking the lesson of the week to heart: Failure isn't fatal or final unless you allow it to be. I hope you have a great week as you join with friends and failures around the world as we stare failure in the face and laugh at its attempts to limit our effectiveness and creativity. As you do, I know you will have a great week!
Feel free to add your comments, failure stories, favorite failure quotes or other pertinent information on the site where this entry is posted.
THE SOPHIA FUND AND DEBORAH FOUNDATION: I wrote this week about what I would do if I had some money to further the causes of the Sophia Fund and Deborah Foundation.You can read that post here. On my last trip, I was able to distribute $3,000 from the Sophia Fund and 28 duffel bags of educational resources and books while in Kenya and came home ready to continue my efforts in those two initiatives. You can read the impact we made at one orphanage here. Once you read these two entries, please donate to help us feed even more orphans while also helping to stimulate their intellectual development
I am asking that every Monday Memo reader contribute at least $5 this year. 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 books and I promise to use it for that purpose. Just $5 will help me feed an orphan for two weeks! Do what you can and please do it today.