This year’s Annual Forum, taking place next Tuesday, June 11, is focused on how we can Dare to Fail on the Road to Discovery.
Rich Cowles, former Executive Director of the Charities Review Council, took a moment to share his thoughts on risks and failure. His experiences highlight how a perceived failure in one instance can open the door to new opportunities. With the Annual Forum just around the corner, Rich’s words show that taking a risk can lead individuals and communities down new paths to success.
Tell us about a time you took a risk and it didn’t work out. What did you learn in the process?
Many years ago, I tried to become a syndicated columnist writing stories of family life. It was a risk because it took a lot of energy and effort to make connections in the newspaper syndication world and to market myself. I didn’t want to slight my busy job and frenetic family life (4 kids, coaching soccer, etc.) And I risked failing—the odds of succeeding were poor. And, sure enough, other than getting a few individual pieces syndicated, my results were zippo.
I never regretted it and learned a lot in the process, such as:
- You always find time to pursue a dream, no matter how busy you are.
- The only failure would have been not to follow the dream.
- It gave me even more energy for the rest of my life.
- I needed to find a way to instill that kind of passion in my job. I found that by moving to the nonprofit sector.
What is a little bet you’ve recently made in your life that helped you accomplish a goal?
I retired from the Charities Review Council a year ago. No question that was a bet: Could I find meaning in life without all the professional relationships and work-related intellectual challenges that had dominated my life? Could I buck the stereotype that retirement is tantamount to being put out to pasture?
As with many bets, I gained self-understanding, made a few adjustments, and fully appreciate my new, enriched lifestyle. I do miss the Council and all the wonderful people I worked with, but my new lifestyle affords me more time to pursue what I value most at this juncture in life—deepening relationships with family and friends.
Why do you think it’s important to take risks?
If you think of life as an ongoing educational process, it’s absolutely essential—because of all the vital learning and gained insight that goes with taking little bets—especially when you fail.
This year’s Annual Forum provides an opportunity to actively engage in life’s continual cycle of education, particularly by learning from the experiences of others working in the nonprofit, governmental, and philanthropic sectors. Failure isn’t an end; it’s the means to a new beginning. Come learn about taking risks and daring to fail in order to achieve positive change in communities at the Annual Forum.