I'm a Christian, but not a very good Christian these days. I'm not even sure I'll attend a service on Easter this year. Nevertheless, 'tis the season, and I find myself contemplating Jesus.
Bob Dylan once said, "There's no success like failure." I cannot think of a better example of this than the historical Jesus.
Good entrepreneurs are radically, rabidly committed to success. We are high-flying risk-takers, adventurers, and dreamers--laser-focused on the Big Chance. Almost absurd in our passion. Yet most of us have had bad failures in our lives and bravely arise each morning to the potential of bigger failures still.
Failure is seminal for the entrepreneur. This has become almost a cliche. It seems to me that Jesus was not unlike the modern entrepreneur. In fact, in one way, it is possible to think of Jesus as a "spiritual entrepreneur." Yup. I deeply, deeply mean that with no disrespect. In purely historical terms (not theological or eschatological), Jesus was a bloody committed failure.
When Jesus entered into the metropolis of Jerusalem on the palm leaf bestrewn main drag, he was greeted with hosannahs. He was the darling of the populace, the King of the Jews. But things did not end well for Jesus, whose ticker-tape parade quickly turned into a bloody funeral march ending on a hill called Golgotha, where criminals received torturous capital punishment through crucifixion. On top of his executional cross were written the ironical words, "This is the King of the Jews."--in three different languages!
My friend, Rev. Dr. Stephen Bauman of Christ Church Methodist in NYC, describes the Christian Holy Week as a "failure mash-up." He says,
"There is no question Jesus was a colossal failure as a king--and as a seeming messiah, for that matter. Well, pretty much a failure in every conceivable way given that at the end there was no one left to defend him, even, and most especially, those who had tramped around the countryside with him hoping they might ride his coattails to glory....And as for his closest friends, they marched right along in the spirit of failure, their loyalty and supposed love for the man melting away in fear and depressed recognition that things were not going to turn out the way they had wanted."
Wow. Even the worst entrepreneurial failure ain't that bad. And we, as entrepreneurs, are not crucified for our insufficiencies. But Jesus' life-failure presaged a huge reward and, ultimately, a spiritual and historical victory.
G. K. Chesterton famously said, "If something is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly." So are the spiritual rewards of entrepreneurship present in our deepest failures? I say yes. Even when creative small businesses fail, there is still a great gift of dignity and wisdom bestowed. Entrepreneurship is one of the few institutions that still allows for the creation of true meaning. It still allows an individual to create her own peculiar and earned private Idaho, a cultural as well as a business home. A place of truth and reality in miniature. Even in ultimate failure.
So maybe I will go to church this Sunday after all. To celebrate the resurrection and triumph of my favorite failure, Jesus of Nazareth.
If there is a fundamental salient fact about me as an entrepreneur, it is that I am a failure. Many times a failure. Every day a failure.
Years ago, I briefly chanted as a Buddhist every day for some months. (One of many things I've tasted.) One of my favorite Buddhist prayers thanks God for challenges and failures, not successes. Success is not half the teacher failure is. Out of the muck is born the beautiful lotus flower.