Never Waste a Good Fiasco

This is a guest post by Tyler Ellis. He serves on staff with Newark Church of Christ as a Campus Minister at the University of Delaware. He is also author of the upcoming book, Questions Everything. You can read his blog and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Fiascos are inescapable. A change of circumstance. A wild goose chase. An obstacle that thwarts what you had envisioned.

Young Businessman in the Middle of a Fiasco - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/pixdeluxe , Image #12192393

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/pixdeluxe
  • 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.
  7. 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.

What’s the last fiasco you experienced and how was it a blessing in disguise? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • JeremiahZeiset

    Great post Tyler! God means all things for good, yes? I even find myself thanking God for placing me in situations with people I really don’t like. It is always a blessing in disguise, a real lesson to learn from – mainly one of humility and of loving all people.
    Jeremiah ZeisetLIFE SENTENCE Publishing

    • http://www.BTylerEllis.com/ B. Tyler Ellis

      Thanks.  Yes, it does seem to echo Romans 8:28.  Even more, Jesus’ own example, how the Cross was the “ultimate fiasco” from which God brought about blessing!

      • JeremiahZeiset

        Amen!

  • Steve

    reminds me of Jason Gray’s “Nothing is Wasted”
    http://youtu.be/AjIagi7QKHQ

  • http://www.RobTrenckmann.com/ Rob Trenckmann

    Ahh, so true!  Well said!  Thanks for the reminder!

  • http://gauraw.com/ Kumar Gauraw

    Wow! What an incredible timing of a post oh FIASCO. We just arrived at Memphis, TN to attend a convention and many of us who have their rooms booked for Friday night, have paid money, called in advance for late check-in, now do not have rooms…

    And since we are waiting amid the uncertainty, I decided to check my mails an here is a timely and powerful post.
    Thank you Tyler. You saved the day for me :-)

    • http://www.BTylerEllis.com/ B. Tyler Ellis

      Glad to hear the timing was good.  I can just imagine the similar stories that will be coming in.  Perspective sure makes a difference!

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  • Jeanne Doyon

    Thanks for articulating this so well. I have lived a close to this over the last few weeks when I broke my foot while teaching a workshop during a women’s retreat. Feeling blessed from  the grace I received…and felt during the whole thing. I felt the Lord’s infusion of peace. You can read more about it on my blog….and a guest blog I wrote this week.
    I agree with Steve’s comment, nothing is wasted.

    Jeanne
    http://www.jeannedoyon.blogspot.com
    http://www.streams-edge.blogspot.com

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       Jeanne, sounds like quite the experience. Great to hear you’re experiencing God’s peace throughout the ordeal. Do you think He was trying to teach you something?

  • http://outoftheclosetintothelight.blogspot.com/ Cecilia Marie Pulliam

    This post is so timely. I have just endured an extremely humiliating experience created by an outside source.  You are right, dropping to your knees gives you a different view point. Two things keep reverberating through my mind: the blessings of unanswered prayers, and the Serenity Prayer. Although it is hard not to feel hurt, faith strengthens you to not react in anger or become vengeful.  And yes, these are opportunities to look for innovative responses. Great post! 

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    I’m right in the middle of my latest fiasco. I’m afraid the jury’s still out how it may be a blessing in disguise. I’ll bookmark this page and come back in a few years with an update. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.martin.10485 Steve Martin

    When fiascos hit, I try and realize that, in the end, it all ends up a fiasco.

    And that in this life there is no lasting rest, peace, or victory.

    But that is exactly why Christ Jesus came to this pride-soaked world. To love us,  to forgive us, and to pull us up out of our graves and eternal lives, never again to be affected by “fiascos”.

    It’s tough…but I try and remind myself of that truth.

    Thanks.

    - theoldadam.com/

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      That’s a winning mindset Steve. When we give our fiascoes to Him, He makes them good.

  • http://chasinggoodness.com/ Robyn

    Tyler, I really like your paradigm shift and how importat it is to stay the course on the risk – when you stay inside the comfort zone it’s impossible to grow – what a great post! And even more importantly what a great reminder…not just for me but my social graph as well. I truly appreciate these guiding principles and I am going to add them to my jounal to set the reticular trigger and as an important reminder of the opportunity inside fisaco’s regardless of the how big or small it is. Thank you!

    • http://www.BTylerEllis.com/ B. Tyler Ellis

      You’re welcome. Writing them down in a journal is a good idea. I might just do the same. Thanks.

  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    Two years ago, my wife was pretty sick.  It sucked!  (Blunt, but that’s really how it felt.)

    We’ve seen God giving us greater compassion for others dealing with similar illness.  We were also forced to slow down as we dealt with the recovery and healing process.  These things have been blessings for us.

  • Susan

    Reminds me of a fall youth group outing at our family’s cottage. We couldn’t get a wagon for a hay ride, so we put the boat on the trailer and filled it w/hay. We laughed hysterically on that hay ride. There was a drought so we couldn’t have a fire. We started cooking hot dogs on the gas grill and ran out of gas, so we had to boil them in a pot inside and make our smores in the microwave. We laughed the entire day. This was almost 20 years ago and I still remember the details of that great day!

    • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

      A hayride in a boat! That’s going to be a great thing to bring to mind when I run into my next fiasco. It makes me think of many of Bob Goff’s stories in his new book.

    • http://www.BTylerEllis.com/ B. Tyler Ellis

      Great story. Seems like the first laugh set the standard for the rest of the day.

  • mom2luke

    As the mother of a child with autism who has behaviors that cause fiascoes on a frequent basis, I appreciate the perspective this post offers. It’s a constant challenge to remember to see the silver linings or “opportunities” as you call them, but they often are there…saving your article as a reminder.

  • JimOrred

    Great stuff, but what happened to the 7th item promised at the beginning?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      It’s there now. I had a bad HTML code.

  • http://www.godschampions.com/ Margaret

    I had a car accident yesterday, so this post was truly an arrow from heaven.  Even though I and the others came out of it physically alright, it put me in an emotional tailspin (not unlike what happened to the car I hit) and has left me feeling off kilter.  I can totally agree with a number of opportunities that the write describe.  I immediately after the accident wanted to go home and be with my family even though most of  the miles away from me.  I needed this and the scripture I read  this morning, “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” Psalm 31:14 

  • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

    I teach an online course to high school seniors. This year I decided to have them work in teams, because I believe we learn better when we are in a social and project based environment. Many days this quarter have felt like fiasco.; it’s way less controllable and predictable compared to the “read this and take a quiz” approach.

    I have a lot of work to do on the course today; so Tyler, your post came at a perfect time. The benefits I’m seeing right now are that I have to be more attentive and in tune with my students, lean on God for wisdom, and the fiascos almost always test my weaknesses and insecurities.

    Thanks for helping us reframe this unchosen situations as opportunities for growth.

    • http://www.BTylerEllis.com/ B. Tyler Ellis

      I love it when I come across just the right encouragement at just the right time. Providence?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Katherine-Harms/602268732 Katherine Harms

    It may not be the most recent, but I can share a memorable fiasco. I was a DBA for a hospital system. While doing routine maintenance, I rebuilt a table, not knowing that an obscure property of the field for payments on invoices would trip me up. Monday afternoon, the AP unit discovered that part of the field did not display correctly. It would have been personally gratifying to point out to them that the department did not want to provide anyone to work with me at 2AM Sunday morning to test the outcome of maintenance before people came to work on Monday morning, but it would not have been useful in defusing the panic that ensued when the problem became known.

    • http://www.BTylerEllis.com/ B. Tyler Ellis

      Perfect story. Thanks for sharing!

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  • http://www.davidsollars.com/ David Sollars

    Tyler, great post and particulary like the reference to connecting with audiences like Dave Ramsey does through showing all your imperfections and allowing everyone to expereince the lessons. We are all humbled and can learn from each other the folly of positioning ourself as the variable “sage on a stage”, which rings of insincerity. I much prefer hearing and sharing with others our all too common stumbles and headers. We all fall down and we can all laugh as we get up.

    Nice guest post.

  • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

    This is a great thought, Tyler. I had a similar experience last week when a late-evening flight into Atlanta was delayed about 2 hours, forcing most onboard (including me) to get a hotel. Man, you would have guessed we were forced into a lifetime of slavery the way some people responded. Tears, shouting at the airline folks, swearing…yeash.

    I shuttled to the hotel, went to the adjoining bar, ordered some cheese sticks and a drink, and had an incredibly enriching conversation with a fellow stranded gentleman. It was great. The next morning I got on a plane and went home well-rested and ready to get back into the swing of things.

    I kind of look forward to these good fiascos.

    • http://www.BTylerEllis.com/ B. Tyler Ellis

      I like that story. I know what you mean about anticipating them. Sometimes I go into a situation on the look out for something to change things up and make opportunities possible that would never have happened otherwise.

  • Stephcroswait

    Very valuable insight and information. Important for all leaders to read and share.

    Newsmom1

  • Ava Oleson

    Powerful message Tyler! I love that you used the word “fiasco”! It grabbed my attention immediately. All kinds of memories flooded through my mind – past situations and, well, things that were “bumps in the road” so to speak – and definitely not what I had planned! I appreciate the 7 opportunities you listed, especially the first one – “to be humble”. Humility has the potential to strip away the need to protect our “image”. A senior pastor I worked for once, gave me some advice. He said, “You’re not always going to ‘look good’ in the ministry. No one looks good all the time.” He was right – we don’t always look like a success or a “star”. We must have our feet firmly planted on the ground and embrace difficult situations, knowing that God will use them as life transforming experiences which will bolster our opportunities to be even more effective leaders. It is in this way, we expand and deepen our influence

    • http://www.BTylerEllis.com/ B. Tyler Ellis

      Thanks for sharing. I like your words “embrace” and “bolster”.

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  • http://profile.yahoo.com/2CWPD43FMZBVJBJMKUVO7IMO2Y King Tubbo

    I came out one sunny Friday morning a couple of months ago to find that my car had been stolen. Besides making me late for work, this incident had far-reaching effects, i.e., I would have to buy another car at a time when my financial situation was less than stable. Yet I vowed to keep a cool head, as becoming depressed or distraught would not help matters one iota. I took a deep breath and composed a clear list of questions and concerns that needed to be answered and addressed, To my [pleasant] surprise, everyone with whom I dealt — insurance agents, the LAPD, adjusters, car dealerships — were extremely straightforward with answers and advice. This situation also made me take a hard look at my income and expenditures and make some long-overdue changes to my budget and living style. Yes, the theft had far-reaching effects, but I treated the fiasco as an educational experience and the effects were much more positive than I originally expected. (And incidentally, I really dig my new ride.)

    • http://www.BTylerEllis.com/ B. Tyler Ellis

      I like that story. Good job. Was your car ever found?

      • Kingtubbo

        The insurance company deemed it a total loss and I received a check (for more than I expected) two weeks after the theft. (It was a Honda, and they told me those are rarely recovered as they can be dismantled so easily.) Two weeks after that, the LAPD called and said they’d found it! Of course, it now belonged to the insurance company, so I notified them. Interesting note: The agent who had been handling my case did a great job and I wrote a note to his supervisor complimenting his professionalism and patience. When I called such agent with the info that the car had been found, he told me his supervisor had told him about my note and it had made his day. It reminded me that no matter how weird or wild is the day, it’s still a day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!

  • RustyCas

    “seven possible opportunities” and six list items.  Read by 266,000 people.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Count again. ;-)

      Seriously, my bad. I left out a little HTML code.

  • katina vaselopulos

    Great post Michael! Again!

    The two months in a wheel chair after an emergency hip revision was of the most enlightening and inspiring period of my whole life. Plenty of lessons I learned… opportunities to humble myself, push ego off the driver’s seat, and surrender my self and my life in God’s hands and to those others who took care of me.

    Getting back on my feet much stronger and more competent, both physically and spiritually, helped me realize that I can handle just about anything that comes my way, as long as I am connected to God and my higher Self.

    That was the time that started me writing, something I was avoiding for years. So my soon to be published book is the product of that “misfortune.”

    Being free of “business” I conncted more to people and my self. I read many spiritual and soul books. I grew compassionate and understanding to those who have faced the same or worst problems, all of which softened my heart. I went back to some volunteering as well.

    Sogial Rinpoche, in the Tibetan book of Living and Dying discribes the benefits of heartships, I guess all “fiascos” as well in the most extraordinary poetic way ever.
    Hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

    Just as when the waves lash at the shore, the
    rocks suffer no damage but are sculpted and eroded into beautiful shapes, so
    our characters can be molded and our rough edges worn smooth by changes.
    Through weathering changes we can learn how to develop a gentle but unshakable
    composure. Our confidence in ourselves grows, and becomes so much greater that
    goodness and compassion begin naturally to radiate out from us and bring joy to
    others. That goodness is what survives death, a fundamental goodness that is in
    every one of us. The whole of our life is a teaching of how to uncover that
    strong goodness, and training toward realizing it.

    Thanks Michael!

  • http://www.toddliles.com/ Todd Liles

    Because a large portion of my business is online based training, I often get internet based fiascos. It provides a great opportunity to show grace under pressure.

  • Ken

    Okay Mike, If you don’t stop posting this encouraging stuff I  might have to continue to grow up.  Here’s how I handle a fiasco

    1. Humiliate whoever caused it
    2. Opportunity to make an example of someone. 
    3. Opportunity to take a break from laughing and frown for a change
    4. Opportunity to have conversations that can change my life like….. Jail, No fly list,
          institutionalization, etc.
    5. Opportunity to create an adventure.
    6. Opportunity to give someone a shiner
    7. Opportunity to take a picture to prove a point

    Seriously, one of the reasons I so enjoy your blog is that it encourages me to be a better person.  You have given great advice in this post, which you practice in your everyday life.  Having me as a business associate and friend will give you many more opportunities to practice these principles. 

    I am a fiasco. 

    But loving life and learning as I go.

    Ken Davis

    • http://www.BTylerEllis.com/ B. Tyler Ellis

      Ken, I love how your comment walked back through the seven points and addressed what comes most natural. We’ve all been there and probably have more stories of how we made things worse.
      Glad you liked my guest post.

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  • http://juliesunne.com/ Julie Sunne

    This post encourages me to seek adventure if only to have it develop into a fiasco! It also inspires me to look at supposed “failures” in a new and refreshing light. Thanks, Tyler. 

  • Fatou

    I was tuck in an apartment and never had time to move, stuck in a role/job title I wanted to change. I worked very hard and poured my heart out for my company. However, my company/employer not only took me for granted, they were not appreciative. They fired me. Immediately, my dreams came through.

  • Lance

    Hours before my wedding, my aunt said, “Don’t be nervous: either it will go smoothly or it will be a great wedding.” Sometimes we need that wheels-off energy to make it memorable.

  • Egwumba Bruno Uche

    Bro..right now it’s a daily fiasco on the personal front and I urgently need to organize tmi and a lot more on my timeline, emails, work but thank GOD I read this! I am reminded indeed to count it all joy!

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

     A recent fiasco was a trip we took down to West Virginia to go whitewater rafting. As we approached WV we began to notice downed trees, water in the road, etc.. Come to find out, a major storm had come through and knocked out power where we were staying.

    Now, how did this become a blessing? Well, it forced us guys to stick closer together, avoiding the pool/rec room/etc and bond with each other.

  • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

    Good post Tyler.

    For me, this goes back to Michael’s question last month, “What does this experience make possible?”

    When we ask that question, fiasco’s, of which I create daily, become learning experiences and opportunities for me to shine through adversity rather than go crazy. I liked the go crazy option until I realized that it was career-limiting, relationship-limiting, and life span-limiting.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    Great post, Michael.  We can learn much from our fiascos and mistakes.  We can also learn from dire situations and circumstances due to life and/or the lack of cooperation or respect from others.  I’ve mentioned before that I was a child victim of a cult.  I’ve also divorced to do extreme mental illness of a partner.  I’ve lost a child to birth defects.  I’ve been able to find the lessons in all of these major life hurdles and turn them into stories, essays, poems, and songs.  I’m able to share with others, my challenges and journey.  Lately, I’ve experienced some hurtful comments from others because of political differences.  Again, I just shake it off and use my experience to write from the heart.  My first book is “A Train Called Forgiveness,” and today’s blog post is a poem called “Slanderous Tongues,” about those who go to far in political debate.  http://www.danerickson.net 

  • http://www.wevival.com/ Jason Stambaugh

    #3 is incredibly important particularly when you are making very public fiascos. Call out the fiasco, have a good laugh, and move on with plan B. 

  • http://twitter.com/QuitetheBlog morgan {at} QTB

    “laugh at yourself.”
    yes! that’s something that i’ve had to learn a lot lately. if you don’t, you will drive yourself crazy. thanks for the encouragement!

  • http://JaredLatigo.com/ Jared Latigo

    Great post for sure! I’d have to say that pretty much everything challenges me to be humble. I struggle with that, it’s my nature. Some people can get all the praise for something and it not go to their head a bit…but I’m just not that way. I’ve found that prayer and continuously questioning how I’m acting is the best way to keep myself in check. 

    But to answer your question…my biggest fiasco was when I was younger. I had some medical issues that caused my entire life to change direction. It really made me who I am today and has been a key player in helping me to realize the plan that is far bigger than my own. Thank God for that! :D

  • Sheila Fishback

    For years now, I have been trying to live that lesson, just on a more personal level. I loved the article and relate very well…you look back on the fiasco’s and see the life lesson that presented itself. Thank you for the reminder that it carries into the work life as well.

    Sheila C. Fishback

  • http://www.CFinancialFreedom.com Dr. Jason Cabler

    It’s the fiascos that really help determine who you are and how you mature through life.  The better you learn to deal with the crazy things that inevitably arise, the better you become at dealing with everything else.

    How you deal with those times helps to determine whether you’re taken to the next level spiritually as well.  God wants you to go through some tests before He elevates you.

    Great post Tyler!

  • RicardoDiaz31

    This just reminds me of my life. Plenty of times that things just went wrong but then later on I see that God takes the bad and makes it good. Or that it happened because it wasn’t meant to be.

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  • http://www.nathanmagnuson.com/ Nathan Magnuson

    This was awhile back, but I still remember sending $77 million to the wrong bank in my first job out of college. (How could I forget??). There’s no way I would change what happened though. It was a huge learning experience. http://www.nathanmagnuson.com/how-i-cashed-in-on-my-own-77-million-mistake/

  • martha

    Great article! My business partnership w/ fellow christian & brother (sibling) has hit the rocks… stepping back, and taking time to reflect, I find that ALL of the above applies… and makes me smile. God is playing with us Sabu. Thanks!