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Updated: Apr 10, 2022

Personal Growth - Leaders Who Are Not Afraid to Fail

Super Bowl XLVII provided two examples of leadership and a quality that is very rare today. Jim and John Harbaugh became the first brothers scheduled to coach against one another in a Super Bowl. Jim and the San Francisco 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons, returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since Steve Young was their quarterback. John and the Baltimore Ravens beat the heavily favored New England Patriots and will be returning to the Super Bowl for their second time.

In all the hype that surrounds the “brother on brother” side of the game, both Jim and John exhibited a leadership quality that is very rare in professional sports, not to mention life in general. While the NFL does not stand for “No Failure League,” both head coaches made significant and high-risk decisions in the middle of this year. By nature, NFL head coaches are reluctant to take major risks, it’s better for job security to play it safe whenever possible. Jim rolled the dice first. He made the controversial call to stick with former backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick after Alex Smith, San Francisco’s starter had recovered from a concussion. Jim figured the speedy, athletic Kaepernick was the right guy to help the 49ers take a bigger step this season. Clearly, Jim nailed that one.

John was no less on point in his assessment of what Baltimore needed. With the Ravens in a three-game slide in mid-December, he fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and promoted quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell. Baltimore’s offense has surged in the postseason—and quarterback Joe Flacco has never played better.

Kaepernick and Caldwell were put into position to succeed because the Harbaughs weren’t afraid to fail. They were willing to make a tough decision that, on paper looked like a high-risk choice. They were willing to do the unusual, and that’s uncommon in the coaching business, and in the game of life.

Sometimes we face choices just in the normal pace of life; sometimes they are thrown in our face. There is a scene in You’ve Got Mail where the writers and actors express it so well: “So, dearie, what have you decided to do?” “Close. We’re going to close.” “Closing the store is the brave thing to do.” “You are such a liar. But thank you.” “You are daring to imagine that you could have a different life. I know it doesn’t feel like that. You feel like a big failure. But you’re not. You are marching into the unknown, armed with … nothing. Have a sandwich.”

Yes, we all face tough choices. Some seem easy to make, others not so much. These choices face us in life, business, relationships, at home and in our decisions about faith. Jesus made this abundantly clear when he told his closest and most dedicated followers, “What good can it do a man to gain the whole world at the price of his own soul?”

Jesus gives us precious little wiggle room when it comes to who he is and what changes he needs to make in our life. He clearly claims to be God the creator and sustainer of the universe who came down from heaven because we had broken our relationship with God. And since we could not fix ourselves or our brokenness, he had to come and repair us in and through himself. He offers himself as the only solution for the “hole in our soul” between us, God, others and life itself.

But Jesus comes as a gentleman; he offers himself and his solution for our brokenness. It’s right there for the taking, but we have to receive his great gift of himself. He does not ram it down our throat but offers himself as a gift. So, the high-risk choice is to continue trying to fix ourselves or to turn our lives over to Jesus to repair, renovate and refurbish our life. That sounds like a no-brainer to me. What have you got to lose?

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