To be a young nonprofit professional in the Twin Cities is to be surrounded by peers who are doing interesting, relevant, and impactful work. We can point to thriving nonprofits and a vibrant arts community as evidence that we’re part of something big and good – and that is usually true! But with such a lively nonprofit ecosystem comes the reality that there are plenty of people angling for the same opportunities you are. And chances are, you’ll fail. At least, I do! Rather than focusing on how to minimize my risk of failure, I’m more interested in openly sharing the risks I take (and the failures I experience) with others and suggest you give it a shot.
As part of a healthy nonprofit ecosystem, opportunities for personal and professional growth surround us; however, there’s understandably a limit to the number of individuals who can take advantage of them. To be clear, I have read 380,000 thinkpieces where Silicon Valley-types talk about failing, and I’m cool with that—but it’s not exactly what I mean.
The type of failure I’m referring to is not about failing often and failing fast, but rather being vulnerable with people about your attempts that didn’t quite nail it. The first failure that I was open with my friends about was a failed attempt at getting a Knight Emerging Leaders grant. Not getting this grant wasn’t a referendum on whether I was an Emerging Leader (by their standards or my own) but probably just that my idea wasn’t the best or quite what they were looking for.
My recommendation is not to corner your friends in a dark bar and ask them to listen to your failures, but rather to generally get your friends/family behind you and share your enthusiasm with them. Chances are that you’re surrounded by talented individuals who want to see you succeed; they’ve got skills that can help you (if you ask!), and they will probably be happy to lend a hand. If you fail, you’ve got a built-in support system of people who understand the goal you were aiming for. Failing openly has allowed me to move quickly through the feelings of disappointment to these three questions:
Why wasn’t I the best candidate for the opportunity?
What could they have been looking for that I didn’t offer, or that others may have offered differently?
What was I looking for from this opportunity, and how can achieve the same thing regardless?
In an attempt to live My Best Life™ despite my failures, I always make a roadmap on how I can get the same personal outcomes from different opportunities. Often, the path is more cumbersome than I’d prefer – but it’s become clear to me that if I’m unwilling to travel that path, then I’m not as committed to that outcome as I may have initially thought.
What will I loudly pursue next?
Because, by this point, I'm pretty much ready to move on!
I recently acknowledged one of my failures to a mentor, who shared that they’d been rejected by the same people a few years prior. If I hadn’t been open about it, I would never have known. If I hadn’t known, I could have continued under the false assumption that I was the only person, ever, who was rejected from this opportunity. Instead, I’m onto the next. In a community like the Twin Cities, there will always be another opportunity – whether it’s one that you are given or one you create for yourself. Next time you put yourself in a vulnerable position, share it with others. If you fail, at least you’ll be further from where you began.
Please Note: Each blog is written by the individual author, and the views expressed may not be shared by all YNPN members.