Change-making vs. Mistake-making (Is there a difference?)

February 23, 2013
By

boxing light and shadowI just finished sparring with my boxing partner under the branches of a huge tree in Balboa Park.  We do this four or five times a week (when I am not home in Uganda or otherwise on the road).  As we scrap, we move in and out of the shade, often emerging into the golden sunshine of the California evening.

The chill of the shade gives way to the warmth of the sun—that soon becomes too hot—and then we return to the shade that now feels pleasant.  Before long, though, the sense of chill returns, and the sun compels us yet again.

Today, it seemed to me a real metaphor for the process of striving for excellence within the context of purpose.

When we are focused, committed and driven, we sometimes feel like mighty champions in the spotlight, but more often than not, we feel like fatigued fighters struggling between clarity and confusion, hot and cold, light and shadow.

We are at work.

In the worlds of higher education and social entrepreneurship, I often hear talk of “finding one’s place in the world,” and of the glories of change-making.  What I don’t hear often enough is the beauty of mistake-making (this is how we best learn) in these processes of discovery, and I don’t hear about the dark, cold shadow of challenge.

To be clear: the darkness hates the Light, and when it can, it attempts to snuff out the tiniest flame, and to douse the mightiest fire.

Thankfully, the tiniest flame illuminates even complete darkness, and a mighty fire has nearly unstoppable power.

The darkness is not omnipotent.

And yet it exists, and labors, and fights.

And must not be ignored.

As you spar towards purpose today, I pray that you are in one of those championship moments of light.  Please remember, though, that they do not last for long as you strive towards the great purpose you have been given.

And if you are in a moment of darkness, keep fighting.  These moments also do not last long.  You will emerge into sunshine again.

This struggle is hard and long—but temporary—and oh-so-worthwhile.

Keep fighting.

3 Responses to Change-making vs. Mistake-making (Is there a difference?)

  1. Pepi
    February 25, 2013 at 7:57 am

    Yes, my friend. From a personal perspective, kills the performance mentality, where I need to perform perfectly in order to gain acceptance of… (name it here: spouse, parents, friends, coworkers, God, etc.)
    On the other hand, as you said, we learn much on our mistakes. At the end, we are not a sum of our mistakes (failures), but over-comers because of our mistakes. And keeping in mind that we make mistakes, we extend grace to others for their mistakes and we cheer them up and remind them how great and wonderful they are.
    =)

  2. Tom Slack
    March 4, 2013 at 12:39 am

    I am excited and at the same time delirious ( an exaggeration) about the different aspects this social quandary.We work so hard to find light sometimes a lifetime, an adventure of and by itself. Then when we discover we have found light, or are rewarded for all our lifetime of learning for instance with light (understanding, wisdom, hope,joy,love,fulfillment,purpose…………) we can become fearsome that if we use it to enlighten others thereby making their journey toward light a little easier than ours was, we may be denigrated or denied acceptance, not a reason or motivation to not share what has been shared with you. We can then become committed to the exchange of ideas and learning takes place. And if you don’t assimilate the knowledge and also share it; what have you accomplished? The performance aspect of these questions would take another larger chunk of research than I can afford, do to time.

  3. suzy from Africa
    March 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    THANK YOU. THANK YOU. Another powerful concept that you have presented to chew on…to absorb and live by. KEEP’M COMING!

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Nathaniel is CEO of AidChild.org. He holds a Master's Degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University where he was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship, and winner of the 2010 Harvard HDP Marshal Award. He also holds a PhD in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego where he was the Dammeyer Fellow in Global Education Leadership, and a Cordes Fellow at Opportunity Collaboration. Nathaniel is author of "We Are Not Mahogany: Three stories about the male African life." Prior to his move to Uganda in 2000, Nathaniel was Deputy Director of the Office of the Governor of Arizona, and Director of Education at Leadership, Inc.

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