The hall is booked for our celebration party. The band is ready to play. The "Celebration!" cake, beautifully iced with pink roses and exclamation marks, awaits, beckoning with its delicious sweet tastes of pink-sugar victory.
We got 90 percent of our way to our business goal. But they don't give out any shiny pins or achievement awards for "Not Quite Getting There"; nothing to recognize the months, weeks and hours of effort and sacrifice.
Well. We'll dance anyway.
Nearly six months ago, we laid our plans. Set the date, visualized our intention, and began working intensively with our team to make the contacts, hone the skills and prepare for massive forward momentum.
Our team captains were lined up to lead the way; each week of the necessary four, we would advance toward the new level. Our terrific downline associates were gathering product orders to release on the appropriate dates. My husband, John, had just returned from opening a new market in Mexico, with lots of new contacts to develop.
Spirits were high; momentum was good. Week One. We begin the familiar morning-to-midnight calling, contacting, and presenting routine. Five days later, by our Friday midnight countdown, we watch with relief and pride as we tally the points needed to attain that week's level--with three seconds remaining.
Three more weeks to go.
Our home looks like a laundry line, names and numbers decorating sheets of newsprint attached to doors, windows and closets. Encouraging slogans and happy reminders are taped to mirrors, the refrigerator, the doors. We are breathing and dreaming, "Goal!"
Week Two is even more diligent--and busier. We squeeze in trips to two cities for events and meetings. Our team works like never before; with their extra efforts, we make it on Friday night with three minutes to spare.
Week Three. We call on our team leaders to keep carrying the torch. John and I divide to cover more territory, traveling to small towns in the interior of British Columbia. Our incredible team has pre-booked parties and events every night, most nights in two different towns. One woman bakes cheesecakes for two days to entice new prospects; others hand-delivered dozens of invitations.
But we're apprehensive. One of our captains is distracted by enormous work pressures; another is meeting with less success than she'd anticipated in a new market. Our relentless, "never give in," Churchillian-bulldog attitude is crumbling around the edges. The relentless toll of the last few weeks and the months of preparation has us dizzy with exhaustion.
Thursday afternoon. I look at the tallies and decide we aren't going to make it. We started the week with 6500 of the 15,000 points we need; we still have only 8000. Thirty-two hours to go, nothing promising on the horizon.
Friday morning. I wake up ready to fight for the cause! I call our captains, old and new associates, old and new customers. I drive to a new retail outlet to drop off packages for new contacts. All day, calling and inviting, and slowly the points climb: twenty, one hundred, five hundred and inching upward. We keep calling and praying for miracles. At the close of the day, we have pushed to 10,000 points...5000 short of the goal.
On a plastic couch in someone else's home, I sob in defeat and disbelief. Just one more day, maybe two, that's all we need to turn these new contacts into gold! But another day is not to be had. I cry out my worry at disappointing our friends and family. I wanted our children to know they can achieve even the most challenging goals. I feel a searing sense of responsibility to our team. Will they still believe in the possibilities, in their goals, in themselves?
John reminds me of Vince Lombardi's famous game summary: "We didn't lose the game, boys, we just ran out of time."
After a quick shower, we go to the bakery to pick up our "Congratulations!" cake and bring it to our victory celebration. Lots of hugs all around. This is what we gathered for: to celebrate the efforts, the teamwork; to acknowledge individual achievements; to create a strong working and playing community. There is so much to celebrate, so much to be grateful for.
Somehow, despite our best laid plans and best efforts, destiny had other plans for us. What have we learned from this rich process of not reaching our goals?
There is a certain humility that comes with the experience. There is also the tendency to want to blame someone or something else. I counted on some key partners in my organization who didn't show up. As a leader, I know that is about me. Why weren't they prepared to show up? What can we do next time to be sure they are ready, and that others are able to fill the gaps if someone doesn't follow through on a commitment?
I learned that I was trying to build too quickly to a new level without building deeply first. I may have been ready to assault the next summit; not all our team members were.
Our downline, our children, and our circle of influence are empowered as they learn from our process. Re-focus, re-commit, grow as a leader.
There's a wonderful line from Tony Robbins's Awaken the Giant Within: "Achieving goals by themselves will never make us happy in the long term; it's who you become as you overcome the obstacles necessary to achieve your goals that can give you the deepest and most long-lasting sense of fulfillment."
Would I have grown by reaching my goal? Certainly, and eventually, I will do just that. As Divinity would have it, I have grown more by not achieving this goal just now.
I'm not ordering the cake today, but the time will come. When it does, I will be proud of who John and I will have become in the process, and even more, of who my leaders will have become. Not only will the checks be bigger; somehow, we will be bigger too.
And, oh, the taste of that victory will be much sweeter than sugar roses.
SHANNON ANIMA, B.Ed., M.A., is a successful networker and author of Parenting with Purpose: How to Raise Great Parents and Kids with Vision and Values.