You've heard the famous tales of failure: Kansas City Star newspaper fired Walt Disney for a "lack of creativity." Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. JK Rowling was once a struggling single mother on welfare, and she faced 12 rejections from publishers before finally selling Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Failures happen all the time, even (and especially) to the most successful and admired leaders. And we just love those stories, don't we?
Yet, when it comes to our own disappointments and perceived failures, we tend not to give ourselves the same grace. We're embarrassed, frustrated, and have a hard time seeing the failure within the larger picture.
If you didn't quite meet your crowdfunding campaign's funding goal, we'd like for you to consider a few things before you throw in the towel and label the experience a failure.
What else did you accomplish?
Recently, a crowdfunding campaign on our platform raised $4,000 of their $7,000 goal. While the $4,000 was exceptionally impressive for the small team of campaigners, they couldn't shake the disappointment they felt in not hitting their overall goal. Then, their professor and campaign leader sent a letter to the team.
"I do not define success by reaching a goal," he began, "I define success by the experience gained in an attempt to reach a goal and the opportunities presented along the way."
The professor went on to share a list of accomplishments that were only made possible by their crowdfunding campaign. From new partnerships with leaders in their industry to deeper connections with people inside of their networks, the act of fundraising became a catalyst for new opportunities.
"If I was only focused on the goal," he continued, "I would have missed the email that has opened up an amazing opportunity for this project. I wouldn't have reached out to someone I haven't communicated with in two years. Both of these have opened up more than a $7,000 goal."
We recommend reflecting with your team in a similar way: Beyond raising money toward your goal, what did you accomplish? What new relationships did you build? What opportunities presented themselves? Looking at your "failure" from this frame will illuminate that your experience really wasn't a failure at all!
What did you learn?
It's important to remember that you will likely fundraise again at some point in your life. At the very least, you will have to work with others, communicate effectively, and make analytical decisions. Sound familiar? Yep, you probably did all of those things while crowdfunding!
A failure to reach a monetary goal is a great way to reflect on what you learned - and how you grew - in the endeavor. For example, when I fundraised for a crowdfunding campaign, I was taken aback by how uncomfortable I was when people I knew donated to the campaign. I struggled with the idea of friends and family - some of which had very little to give - donated because I had asked them to. Upon reflection, however, I learned that it was actually a joy for those people to support me and the causes I care about. It took that struggle to realize that people are inherently generous and that me giving them the opportunity to exercise their generosity was a powerful thing.
Reflect with your team and outline the skills and experiences that helped you grow, both as a team and as individuals. There's no doubt your crowdfunding campaign was wrought with challenges. Just don't let them be in vain by passing up the opportunity to ask yourself and each other: What did you learn in the process?
Failures make the best stories
Every good story in the history of stories has an element of danger and conflict. Yours is no exception.
Storytelling expert, Randy Olson, says that any story worth telling can be condensed into "And," "But," and "Therefore." So, something happens and something else happens, but then some kind of conflict happens, therefore the outcome of that conflict is something else. It's a simple formula, but it works.
Failure and conflicts advance stories, and you not meeting your funding goal advances yours. Nobody wants to hear the story of how everything in your life turned out perfect. Or how you were successful in all of your endeavors. Even you would grow bored of such a story of your own life. When we look back, it is the stories of challenges, heartbreak, and disappointment that make our lives interesting.
Finally, consider how the phoenix must burn in order to emerge. That's you, right now. And you can either let yourself burn, or you can rise.
So we say: Rise! Rise with a new perspective. Rise with new skills. And rise with an unbridled enthusiasm to fail again and again and again. After all, failure is what makes all of us human.