Learning from Failure

If you are a leader, failure is in your future. Don’t worry about it, embrace it. Trust me, you will look back at your failures and remember fondly how you navigated your way out of them, what you learned from them, and how you grew because of them. Failure has a funny way of shaping you into a remarkable leader.

Whether apocryphal or not I want to share a story with you. It is a difficult story, but it’s one you need to hear. It is the story of a father and son who—for the son’s 16th birthday—decided to experience a right-of-passage type adventure to mark the boys transition to manhood. This special time took them on a difficult hike in the high eastern Sierra’s of California. 

At one point on the hike, the son slipped from the narrow pass onto a large, steep slope of shale. As the son was trying to regain his balance he began to run faster and faster trying not to fall. To his horror, his father could see that at the end of the shale slop was a cliff and the father began to yell at the top of his voice “FALL DOWN!” In his desperation, he was waving his hands in the air, “SPREAD YOU ARMS, SPREAD YOUR LEGS, FALL FALL!!!” 

In his fear of falling, and being incapable of seeing the cliff, as his father looked helplessly the son plummeted to his death.


As a leader, there will be times when you need to spread your arms and legs and hit the ground in failure. In those moments, DO IT QUICKLY. You may actually survive the fall. In other words, you are going to fail. Every good leader does. So, when you do fail, FAIL FAST.

Once you hit the shale, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, review, reflect, and learn from your fall. Then head back on the trail applying what you’ve learned. In the end, you’ll look back at what you survived and you will smile. With some reflection and some time you will be happy that you fell, and best of all, you will be a better leader for it.

Leader Video

Church Planting Video

The Davenport

The Historic Davenport Hotel was one of the most opulent, incredible hotels in the world. When it opened in 1914 it hosted and entertained presidents, Hollywood A-listers and the business elite. But in 1985 it had fallen into disrepair and the last guess left and the doors were closed. The grand Davenport went dark.

Losing relevance is the death of any organization, especially the Church. One day the demographics shift, the Gospel wanes, or the leaders fail to pursue the spiritual needs of their people. Or worse yet, the leaders fail to realize that everything has changed around them… and soon, the doors close.

But all is not lost.

In 2000 a great restoration of this Historic Davenport Hotel began. The heart and soul of the building, the plumbing, electrical, and all the inner workings needed to be ripped out and replaced, but, the beauty that was found there, like the ornate hand gilded beams, the statuary, the furniture and ceilings had to be painstakingly and tenderly, restored.

Knowing what to rip out and what to painstakingly restore is the key to organizational restoration and it’s sometimes an art, not a science.

What a huge lesson for the Replanting Church Planter to learn. To rebirth a church, you literally may have to rip out and replace the antiquated systems that allowed it to die, Opening it up and examining the inner structures is just the first step. As the leader, you must do so without harming the beauty of what was once there. Remember, there was once excellence in her DNA. Find it. Then, painstakingly restore the hidden greatness of what the organization once was.

If you can restore the beauty of what once was, and modernize the systems without changing the gospel message, your Replant can once again be grand and more importantly God Pleasing.

Here’s a quick video I shot in the second-floor showcase of the Historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane Washington.


Refresh and Renew

The Malecon 2000 (above) is an amazing sight. A completely redesigned, vibrant place to which travelers from the world over come to walk, shop, mingle and be seen. Located in Guayaquil Ecuador this riverside boardwalk has become the country’s safest, most frequented site for both tourists and locals. However, this was not always the case. Like so many Urban Renewal Projects, the riverfront was transformed because someone had a vision of what it could be. For years, the crime rose, the building became dilapidated, and finally, someone said “Enough!” Because someone had the vision, people were mobilized and monies generated.

As a leader, when was the last time you looked at your organization with eyes from the outside.

When was the last time you asked yourself:

• How does my organization look to the outsider?

• What do others see that I do not see?

• When will I finally say “Enough!?”

First impressions rule the day and the sad truth is that many of us have lost individuals because of that first impression. Whether it be something as small as a product or as large as an organization, you have a very small window of time to leave your mark.

It has been said that any prospect makes their decision in the first minute of the encounter and the remainder of that precious time justifying why, or why not, your product or service is for them.

If necessary, bring an outsider in and allow him or her to speak frankly to your deficiencies. Eyes from the outside can see things that you never will. They can tell you what you don’t know.

If your organization is to be all that it can be, always remember to “Refresh and Renew.”

I have two videos related to this subject.

“First Impressions Rule” is for Church Planters about their first impression.

“Refresh and Renew” is for Organizational Leaders filmed on location at the Malecon 2000

Innovate or Die

Innovation continues and that is a very good thing. I love innovation. The only thing I love more is innovation that is Entrepreneurially Disruptive! (think how Uber disrupts the Taxi monopoly). Each and every one of us looks forward to new advances. However, we hate change. This makes little or no sense.

Could it be that we trumpet change as “innovation” when it is change that we like, but strip the word from our vocabulary when it is change that we don’t?

I think so.


You need to ruminate on this fact. As a leader, your direct reports will herald change as innovation as long as it means their routine does not need to change, their comfort isn’t threatened, or their skillsets are not put to the test. As a leader, you will need to mitigate that with full disclosure and instruction, training sufficient to ease the worries, and the full revelation as to why this new change will make things better—not only for you—but for them as well.

I laugh sometimes at the pushback we get as we implement new system changes. Knowing that there are rough waters ahead, but new productivity and efficiency await past the rapids. Change eventually makes everyone’s life more efficient, but there will always be those who chose to stay with the old ways and suffer hours of frustration because they refuse to take the hour or two to learn.

I love the picture above. Many of our direct reports chose to lay in the path of danger to use the current systems… I’ll take the GoPro.

Beneath the Surface

My wife and I love the beach. She loves to find a nice shady spot, open to the breeze, pull out her book and enjoy the afternoon. She enjoys the view of the water, the sights and the sounds, and watching people as they enjoy their afternoon. That type of relaxation may please her, but it drives me insane.

I look out at that big ocean and I realize there is an undiscovered behemoth that covers three-quarters of our planet. I don’t want to sit there on the beach looking at it! I want to get in and discover whatever mysteries or adventures she may hold for me.

But that’s just me.

As leaders we must realize that the majority of people will see our organization with eyes from the shore. When it looks good it looks good. “If it’s not broke… don’t fix it!” Most of our direct reports are right there, enjoying the status quo. The status quo brings them a paycheck, it is stable and stress free. There are no dangers in the status quo. However, there is also a glaring lack of adventure.

As a leader, you have no business enjoying the status quo!

When was the last time that you forced yourself out of the status quo by diving deeper into your organization? When, while seeing the surface, did you last wonder what mystery lies beneath her? What is that scary thing that you may find, and have to wrestle with, that will propel your organization to new heights?

You can only know through discovery. So, what are you waiting for, jump in!

Had a little fun with a video version: Check it out!