Failing Forward

JOELLast Friday evening I was doing the electronic scoreboard for my daughter’s basketball game (Nicole, 13, and Chelsea, 12 are both on the same failingteam). It was the first time I was in charge of the scoreboard, and I didn’t know what I was doing. At times I would forget to turn the clock on while the kids were playing. The referee corrected me several times. On another occasion the referee told me to turn back the clock eight seconds because I didn’t stop it on time. On account of me, the game stopped for additional seconds while I tried to figure out how to do it. I was embarrassed! Another time, one of the coaches asked me to change to the next period, and I pressed a wrong button that again stopped everything.

I tried to brush off my bad experience afterwards, but I felt like an imbecile who couldn’t even work a simple scoreboard. It didn’t help when after the game my daughter came up to me saying, “Daddy, what happened? Our coach was rolling her eyes when you took so much time with the scoreboard.”

That night my mind drifted to illustrations of failing forward. I thought specifically of a time when Thomas Edison was performing a very important experiment. His brand new aide dropped a vile on the floor, which splattered the precious substance and ruined the entire experiment. Yet, instead of firing the aide, Edison requested that the same aide carry the vile the next day to complete the experiment. Edison knew his helper needed to overcome his fears and doubts.

The next day (Saturday) my girls played for the championship. Their coach, bless her heart, asked me to do the electronic scoreboard again! I could have said “no way.” But I knew that I needed to prove myself. I was nervous. It was a totally different electronic scoreboard, and a lot of people were in the stands. I was on my own. One of the referees from the night before was very patient with me. When I was struggling to figure out how to place more time on the clock, he said to the other ref., “let him figure it out, that’s the only way he’s going to learn.” I felt like a champion when the game ended. Not only had my daughter’s team won the game, but I overcame my own fears and did a decent job with minimal errors.

How are we doing as cell coaches in allowing others to learn through their failures? Are we encouraging them to step out? (like the referee who knew that I’d never learn unless I made mistakes). Are we giving people a second chance? (like the coach who asked me to do it again). Let’s face it, we primarily learn through our mistakes. When we fail—and we all will—let’s remember to fail forward.

And let’s remind people that although they are NOT FAILURES, they will fail–it’s part of life. When people do fail, let’s encourage them to press on, give them needed counsel, and ask them to perform the same task again. That’s how they will learn, grow, and be useful in God’s service.

How does this apply to you and your ministry?


Joel Comiskey

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