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Don’t Know. First Time.

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a
life spent in doing nothing. George Bernard Shaw

Yesterday we got some great comments about living with a fear of failure, or maybe some who live with no fear of failure. There are so many ways of dealing with failure, and I appreciate all the feedback.

As I’ve thought about failure I’ve come to an opinion that there are two kinds of failure. The first kind of failure, is the most common. I’ll label it as Passive Failure. This would be the kind of failure that comes from a lack of preparation, laziness, being overly cautious (or overly patient for you super-spiritual folk), waiting to long to get started, or simply happens because we don’t try hard enough. To me passive failure comes because of inaction on the part of the leader. I know I’ve been guilty of this in the past, but at the same time it’s also what I guard against the most as a leader. I’ve learned to limit this kind of failure, and I feel as a leader that there is no excuse for passive failure.

The second kind of failure is less common, and I’ll label it as Aggressive Failure. Weird label, huh? Let’s define this as the kind of failure that comes from a lack of knowledge. Sometimes even with all the best planning and preparation, a lack of knowledge about a situation can still exists. Here’s why I think so. I think Aggressive Failure comes from those willing to step out and do something that they may have not ever done before. It’s comes from someone willing to try the “new” thing and learn through the process. I find that those most successful at anything, are usually the ones that have learned to live through this kind of failure. They recognize that exploring uncharted areas will bring about some failure, but it’s the only way they will ever gain the knowledge and experience success.

This reminds of the scene from the Karate Kid when Mr. Miyagi uses his karate chop to break the top off the three glass beer bottles left sitting on his car. When Daniel asks him how he did it, he responds, “Don’t Know. First Time.” Sometimes when we do things for the first time we are taking that chance that could lead to failure. (But we are also taking the chance that we could chop the top off of three beer bottles!)

When I mentioned yesterday that I don’t know if I’d had enough failure, I mean that I don’t think I’ve had enough Aggressive Failure. To experience this kind of failure, means that I could potentially be setting myself up for some great successes!

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.

1 Comment

  1. Gonzo! · September 19, 2008

    Interesting read. I like the usage of the Mr Miyagi scene. I remember that so well.
    I hope that I can be catagorized as an agressive failure.
    A very good read.