Failure

Defeat

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IMG_3480There were many times since first conceiving this endeavour I have called the 10 City Bridge Run that I realised that what I had proposed was a little too close to the impossible, and that perhaps it might just be out of my reach.

Even since beginning this journey in Port Moresby back in September, I took the first steps with much apprehension as the way forwards was far from clear. It has been a tough journey.

And I am reminded of a great passage from a great general in his classic book, Defeat Into Victory, written by Field Marshall Sir William Slim. The passage speaks for itself:

“The only test of generalship is success, and I had succeeded in nothing I had attempted…The soldier may comfort himself with the thought that, whatever the result, he has done his duty faithfully and steadfastly, but the commander has failed in his duty if he has not won victory, for that is his duty. He has no other comparable to it. He will go over in his mind the events of the campaign. ‘Here, he will think, ‘I went wrong; here I took council of my fears when I should have been bold; there I should have waited to gather strength, not struck piecemeal; at such a moment I failed to grasp opportunity when it was presented to me.’ He will remember the soldiers whom he sent into attack that failed and who did not come back. He will recall the look in the eyes of men who trusted him. ‘I have failed them,’ he will say to himself, ‘and failed my country!’ He will see himself for what he is, a defeated general. In a dark hour, he will turn in upon himself and question the very foundations of his leadership and his manhood.

And then he must stop! For, if he is ever to command in battle again, he must shake off these regrets, and stamp on them, as they claw at his will and self confidence. He must beat off these attacks he delivers against himself, and cast out the doubts born of failure. Forget them, and remember only the lessons to be learnt from defeat, they are than from victory.”

The lessons from the 10 City Bridge Run have been many, and I am in the process of documenting them the best I can now to share more widely. I learnt most from when it was toughest, when there was no obvious way through the many barriers that lay across my path. It wasn’t only my capacity for preserving that brought me through, but it was because of the support of people like you that it was made possible.

Now I am turning my attention to the Design Forum, and it is taking shape. It is not at all what I expected it might be, but better, and I would hope will be more inspiring than what you might have considered as well. This process of the Design Forum is the real epic quest of this journey, and a journey that we must take together. The next steps forward are a team effort.

There has been plenty of failure to get us to this point, but that has been embraced by me. It was an essential part of the journey. The good think is it has given rise to success which we can all enjoy, but not without some hard work.

Failure

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The Last Days of Lehman Brothers
The Last Days of Lehman Brothers

What defines success? The absence of failure?

Dealing with doubt and uncertainty is all part of trying to start or do something. No one wants to fail publicly.

What is worse is not to try.

There are some more recent examples of spectacular failure which resulted in the loss of billions of dollars, which for most of us is a figure that is difficult to comprehend. During the early months of the global financial crisis the collapse of many companies saw billions of dollars of value ‘wiped off’ the stock exchange. Lehman Brothers is seen as a scapegoat, but terms like ‘toxic debt’ were frequently used to describe the situation many companies faced. Some of those companies no longer exist.

Is there a correlation between the failure of the world’s financial and banking system which led to the global financial crisis, and the situation confronted in less glamourous places across the world where the conditions of extreme poverty are inescapable and oppressive? I contend that there is a wider spiritual failure cultivated from seeds of greed that contributes to both.

Throughout the 10 City Bridge Run I am and will be confronted by my own real sense of failure in a different sense.

The core focus on the 10 City Bridge Run is the publication of a book to be presented as a ‘pictorial petition’ to the G20 Summit leadership in November. With a working title of “Above the Line”, the book will feature 24,000 photographs of people who are posing to create a bridge using themselves and another person or people. We are encouraging people to be as creative as they would like in achieving this- our best response so far is from a village chief in PNG lining up his 200 elders to form a massively long human bridge.

The metaphor of a bridge communicates our connectedness, among other things. This is important. Help us raise this issue to the G20 Summit so that the issue of aid is not sidelined by a focus on addressing structural reform to the global banking system.

The run, the logistics, the photographs, the book…surely you might well be shaking your head in disbelief and muttering that while it sounds intriguing, it also would appear impossible.

Is the seemingly impossible possible? is the tag line to this event, and although inherently problematic (and truthfully is far from ‘a walk in the park’), it is achievable which I intend to demonstrate before the G20 Summit commences.

Put into perspective, my sense of failure is manageable and the consequences are not fatal. Sadly, this is not true for a child born in a community experiencing extreme poverty. What can we do about this? I don’t have the answers, but I am going to try to create a shift through along with other people through the 10 City Bridge Run.

Join us. Please sponsor the book and build a bridge into the G20 Summit.