Fun with failure

i’m a firm believer in the opportunity brought on by failure. shoot, my journey is littered with much more failure than success. some real doozies! and there is NO question in my mind that i have learned 10 times more–no, probably 100 times more–from my failures than from my successes.

of course, there are vastly different kinds of failure. off the top of my head (i wonder if someone has written a book along these lines?), i’d divide them into:

  1. failure from stupid–even knowingly stupid–choices. an opportunity to learn.
  2. failure from lack of ability. an opportunity to learn (at least about oneself and one’s limitations).

  3. failure from lack of trying. this is the worst kind, in my opinion. still an opportunity to learn, of course.

  4. failure from trying–from a risk that didn’t work out. this is the best and most noble kind of failure, i believe. in fact, i think of this as “noble failure.” most of our youth ministries (and churches) must get into a cycle of change and embrace the concept of noble failure if they’re going to survive in the years to come. The Youth Cartel tries to embrace this (though sometimes we fail!). we’ll say, “oh, yeah, that. it was a noble failure. we did our research, found a good partner, had good assumptions, but it didn’t work out. it was a great opportunity to learn.” of course, this is easier said than done.

this is really off the top of my head; but i’d love to develop this thinking further (shoot, maybe i should write a book or article called “noble failure.” or, maybe that’s someone else’s term and i’m totally ripping it off and just don’t remember!). are there categories of failure significantly outside of those four? would love your input.

8 thoughts on “Fun with failure”

  1. Really cool question! I’ve only got one I can think of before coffee.

    Failure of others – example of the team at MH in Seattle… lotta good folks without jobs because someone else failed.

  2. It might overlap with other types of failure, but here is one I’ve recently experienced: Failure of Fit – great organization and gifted leader, but the person is in the wrong position at the wrong time, or there is a lack of alignment in values. It’s more than just team chemistry; it’s 1 Corinthians 12 stuff, where an eye is in the place of a foot.

  3. I’ve experience failure from pressure. In other words, I went against God’s leading in order to satisfy a few church members complaints. In the end, it cost me my job.

  4. Failure at the hands of others. Translation: When the effort, the fit, the vision, the planning, and the ability were all in line, but were sabotaged by others (either in ignorant or mean-spirited ways). It can be an ugly and painful scene, but God can still work through it.

  5. Systemic Failure – issues, walls, pits, landmines that already existent that which under no circumstances, noble, stupid or otherwise are able to overcome the system. It really takes a massive change or movement to get any closer. Like D Day or King Leonidas and the brave 300 initially against Xerxes hordes. Even though it eventually works out there are plenty (too many) casualties.

  6. comments/suggestions are all good

    Joel’s failure to fit – I’ve seen that a lot with youth pastors and their church and/or senior pastor

    Toby’s failure at the hands of others
    I’d add that this should be a teaching opportunity
    I’d also add that we need to be careful in applying this to a situation because it’s easy to ignore our part in the failure (and miss the learning opportunity)
    but it still exists

    perhaps failure to fail – different than your failure to try in that it’s a blindness that try or not you have failed, often, you just want admit it…the pride that says you’re somehow above failure

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