On Projects & Fireworks
I’ve been waiting for this day with much anticipation. It was a fine, cold Sunday morning and today was the first event of my newly established meetup group - a social walk for families with young children.
The reservoir was covered with a sheet of ice and frost was everywhere. It felt like a winter wonderland. A flask of tea - check. Snacks- check. A mobile phone- check. An event’s page- check. I couldn’t wait to see who would turn up.
5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes… I began pacing around. By this stage, a dozen or so people must have passed me including dog owners, cyclists, runners and walkers, and none of them were there to join in.
I knew very well what this meant - despite my great hopes, I ended up without a single soul turning up to my event. And so I did what’s probably the hardest thing to do when facing disappointment - I set off anyway...
You might be thinking why bother if the project has failed. No participants means no interest which means a bad idea which means ‘what was I even thinking’. But to see projects in this way would send me on a downward spiral and miss the point of all of this.
While the grand finale is what most projects ultimately lead to, it is also dangerous to judge the success of a project by how it ends alone. Because to do so would be to undermine the fact that a project is a journey. Not just that moment of arriving at your final destination but also the planning, organising, negotiating, communicating and so on that precede it. It is often those steps that teach us the most.
In situations like these some people go back to their car feeling defeated, others go back to their drawing boards and try again. For sure it is not easy to hold your head up high when things turn out differently to what you’ve expected.
My lesson from all of this is that a project is like an invitation. If people turn up, great. If not -yes it sucks but it doesn’t mean you have failed. It just means a party without the fireworks, but a party nonetheless. So if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, I hope you will find enough self-compassion to do 2 things: congratulate yourself on trying and enjoy your party for one, no matter what.