If You Don’t Start, You Can’t Fail

September 24, 2013 in Inside SWS

“If you don’t start, you can’t fail”

I subscribe to a blog written by Seth Godin, who by his own description, writes about “the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything.” Often I glance at it and click delete, as it usually focuses on corporate enterprise, but every once in while there is a nugget that grabs me. The post below, from late August (coincidentally the ultimate crunch period in our grade school project) jumped out.

“If you don’t start, you can’t fail”

It sounds ridiculous when you say it that way. But of course, it is ridiculous.

It’s (quite possibly) the reason you’re stalling. On the other hand, there’s no doubt that, “if you don’t start, you will fail.”

Not starting and failing lead to precisely the same outcome, with different names.

In our many discussions preceding the decision to invest $3.4M in expanding our grade school building, we often heard (usually from me) that we cannot afford not to undertake this effort. That may seem like an unusual way to make a case for investing a sum three times larger than any previous SWS financial commitment – but in my view, it was absolutely true. Our facilities did not support the extraordinary program our teachers can offer. Our students deserve the very best educational experience we can provide. The continued growth and health of any institution depends on continued investment and renewal. Not going forward would have been, as Godin aptly notes, failure by a different name.

Where I think we (schools) can err is in making the distinction between embarking on what Jim Collins (author of From Good to Great) on “big hairy audacious goals” and taking unwise, even dangerous risks. Visionary by intention, a “BHAG” is clear and compelling, offers a unifying focal point of efforts, and serves as a clear catalyst for generating enthusiasm in the community. It has a start and finish, and it is clear when you have achieved your goal. While a BHAG may feel like a huge stretch, to the point of causing discomfort and anxiety, it is not foolhardy or haphazard. In fact, pursuing a visionary goal like this requires our very best planning, forethought and scenario building, to ensure we are successful.

We started, we finished, and we achieved our goal in a glorious way! A multitude of people contributed to this effort; I hesitate to list individuals for fear of inadvertently omitting someone. But I would like to extend my gratitude to a few key leaders who made our new building a reality:

  • Norm Smith (Board chair), Curt Eckman (Facilities Committee chair) and Sharlyn Turner (Finance Committee chair)
  • Cheri Hendricks, Broadview Associates, Ltd.
  • Steve Southerland and Maggie Johnson, Johnson+Southerland, Architects and Landscape Architects
  • Brian Gibson, MRJ Constructors (and his team of Mark Blanchard and Larry Westling)
  • Jan and Dorine Harris and members of our Green Team
  • Julianne Shaw, working with Johnson+Southerland

The important funding groups who made this possible:

  • Rudolf Steiner Foundation, who provided $2.5M to fund construction
  • The Room to Grow limited partnership, with 20 members supported the project with an investment of nearly $900K.
  • Donors to the Fund-A-Need at last year’s Inspire! auction provided $75,000 that supported the development of our new play areas including the swings, play structure, and hard surface areas outside Huckleberry Hall.

In a whirlwind of activity parent and student volunteers and faculty/staff put the finishing touches on this magnificent project – thank you for going above and beyond!

Finally, in a category of his own and deserving unending thanks and appreciation is Tim Love, SWS Facilities manager. Tim devoted an extraordinary amount of time, energy and expertise to this project – I can honestly say that we would not have the building we have today without him. We are deeply grateful for his work.

Looking ahead, we have more big, hairy, audacious goals, the most pressing of which is securing a new home for our high school program. We will share news of that effort soon – in the meantime, let’s take a moment and experience the joy and satisfaction of a job well done!