Have you ever failed miserably at something?
I have. Let me share with you one of my all-time greatest failures!
In 2018, I became the Director of Development at Light of Life. I was 33 years old. It was my first big leadership opportunity. The organization took a risk on me, and for that, I am grateful.
Not too long after I had become Director, I was asked to present at a Board Meeting. That was something I had never done before. I, of course, wanted to do a great job and leave a great first impression on them.
I met with one of our vendors and asked if they could produce a report for me to share with the Board that will give all the data on our fundraising efforts to paint a picture of where we stood.
They produced it, and the report looked great. I knew it would impress the Board.
As I stood up to report to the Board, I passed out the report (which was 15+ pages) and told them to look through it.
My work is complete, I thought to myself.
Then, each of the Board members started asking me questions.
As they asked me questions, I realized I had a huge problem.
The problem? I did not understand the report enough to be able to answer any of their questions.
My heart sank into my stomach. All I could tell them was that I didn’t know the answer to their questions but that I would find out.
My time to report to the Board was over. I walked out of the board meeting, knowing that I had just failed miserably. I’m sure I left the entire Board questioning the organization’s decision to allow me to lead.
I questioned if I had what it takes to be a leader.
Have you been there?
In such moments, we must make one of the most important decisions that we’ll make in our lives: The decision on how we’ll handle our failures.
The question in life isn’t, “Will I fail?” Of course, you will.
The question is, “What will you do when you do fail?”
What to do when You Fail:
You have two options when you fail:
- Bury your head in the sand, ignore it, and hope it goes away, or give up. (These are not good options).
- Do something about it. (This should be your only option).
So, what should you do?
1.) Admit It & Apologize
When you fail, have the courage to admit it and to ask for forgiveness.
The day after my board meeting, I called every single board member and apologized to them and told them that I wouldn’t let that happen again.
2.) Get Better: Learn the Lessons You Need to Learn
I realized that I had never been a Director before and I had never presented to a board before. There was a lot I needed to learn.
I asked one of the Board Members to mentor me on leading at this level and communicating with the Board.
We spent several breakfasts together. He gave me advice and a template for how to report to the Board. I learned so much from him. I am so grateful he took the time to invest in me.
3.) Don’t Let it Happen Again
It’s been five years since my first Board meeting, and I have never repeated my failure. I learned the lessons that I needed to learn. I built trust with the Board.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” – Abraham Lincoln
“My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” – Abraham Lincoln
Never be content with failure!
4.) Do Not Throw Away Your Shot!
When you fail, it is humiliating, and it can cause a lot of shame and doubt in your mind. You’ll be tempted to throw in the towel and quit. Don’t!
For an entire year after that Board meeting, I listened to “My Shot” from the Hamilton soundtrack every day before I went to work.
The main line in the song is, “I am not throwing away my shot!”
That was my focus for the entire year. I was not going to allow one failure to cause me to throw away my shot at leading and growing into the person I have become today.
If you’ve failed:
- Admit it.
- Ask for forgiveness.
- Learn what you have to learn.
- Get better and grow.
- Don’t let it happen again.
- Never give up!
What have you learned about dealing with failure? Comment below!
Remember: Don’t quit. Keep leading. The world desperately needs YOUR leadership!