Fiascos are inescapable. A change of circumstance. A wild goose chase. An obstacle that thwarts what you had envisioned.
- Flights get delayed.
- Guest speakers cancel.
- Donors drop support.
- The flu comes around.
- Equipment breaks down.
These occurrences bring much stress as we face the unknown. For this reason, leaders will often go out of their way to predict potential hang-ups, to avoid them at all cost.
This is understandable. It would be irresponsible not to.
However, appropriate risks must be taken. Like a sailor who determines to sail around the world, he can study weather patterns and learn to follow the stars, but if he becomes paralyzed for fear of a storm, he’ll never leave the shore.
Just as storms can make sailors better sailors, fiascos can make leaders better leaders.
Just think back to the last time something “went wrong” in your line of work. Can you put your finger on a few blessings in disguise that would not have come about otherwise?
In every fiasco there seven possible opportunities:
- The opportunity to be humble. Humility is especially difficult to keep when things always go your way. As leaders, we’re not immune to becoming smug and proud. We can become “ball hogs.” We can develop unrealistic expectations, take things for granted, and forget to give credit to whom credit is due.
A good fiasco reminds us we have limitations, there are things beyond our control, and not everything relies on our own human ingenuity. It brings us to our knees and beacon us to pray for help while we’re there.
- The opportunity to set a good example. Every situation is a test you will pass or fail by the attitude you possess. When things “go wrong,” your behavior will show your true character. It’s an unparalleled opportunity to set the pace for better or for worse.
- The opportunity to laugh at yourself. A great example of a leader who laughs is Dave Ramsey of Financial Peace University. Instead of hiding the fiascos he’s experienced over the years, Dave is open about them and pokes fun at himself for learning some things the hard way. I think that’s one of the things that’s enabled him to help so many of us reach financial freedom.
Life’s too short to take ourselves too seriously.
- The opportunity to have life-changing conversations. When things “go wrong,” people talk. These moments invite people to give feedback, ask questions, share concerns, express feelings, confront problems, brainstorm ideas, and offer suggestions.
Given the valuable lessons that can be learned, these discussions often prove to be worth the pain it took to have them.
- The opportunity to share an adventure. As a College Minister, I’m always on the look-out for a bonding experience. A chance for students to make new friends. And nothing does this better than a fiasco.
Like the time I took students to Washington DC and the bus broke down because I accidentally filled the tank with regular gas instead of diesel; or the time our venue on campus was suddenly unavailable and we went to a coffee shop instead; or the time one of my students got his car stuck in the sand during one of our beach retreats, and we had to dig it out using a clipboard and a Frisbee.
Memories are made, pictures are taken, inside jokes are retold, and unlikely friendships are established. A fiasco is your friend because a fiasco makes you friends.
- The opportunity for people to shine. Unexpected situations often require people to step up to new challenges. These moments prove a person’s resilience, creativity, and ability to improvise and work with others. You’re likely to discover something you didn’t know about yourself or someone else—something that serves to be a vital breakthrough.
- The opportunity to see the big picture. Whether you’re writing a book, recording an album, planning a fund raiser, or building an orphanage, you’ll face what feels like an endless list of decisions to make, papers to sign, and responsibilities to delegate.
With all these details, it’s not uncommon for leaders to lose sight of the good they had originally hoped to accomplish through their particular undertaking.
When a fiasco enters the equation, it not only challenges your determination to fulfill your dream, but it helps you see your dream in light of eternity. It can shift your priorities and balance your time, to give family and faith a more prominent place in your life.
Never underestimate the power of a good fiasco. When you consider its potential, you will welcome its blessing.