Monday, December 27, 2010

Room for error

I recently read an article in the school newspaper about a lecture given by ESPN's VP of event production (here's a link to the article ), and thought his comments about risk and failure were interesting. I would encourage you to read the article, but if you don't want to: he basically said that ESPN has become what it is today through taking risks and getting involved in numerous areas beyond their original niche. In one of my favorite parts of the summary of his lecture, he says that "at ESPN... you're encouraged not to be afraid to fail."

"He told them:“Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere." Luke 9: 3-6

Failure is quite the F-word in the world/culture I come from. There's not a whole lot worse or more embarrassing than failure for many people (including myself) that I know. In fact, the chance of failure can be so terrifying that it becomes paralyzing.

Being freed from a fear of failure can be quite liberating, yet also perplexing as we're unsure how to assess our own performance. I can imagine Jesus' disciples feeling glad to have instructions for failure in their being "sent out" in this passage, but still wondering what would be the terms by which they were graded.

I wonder if freeing people from a fear of failure would produce more innovative and efficient work to be done at work, at home, at school...etc.? How can we become more accepting of failure as a way of encouraging responsible risk taking? What if we became less surprised by failure of our co-workers, friends, and family?

PS- It's also worth noting that Jesus gives the disciples authority to drive out demons and heal sicknesses before sending them out or instructing them in case of failure.

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