Hopefully, you have failed at least a couple of times in your life. I say hopefully, because I think failure is good for us. Failure, unlike success has the power to humble us and teach us lessons we would have never learned had we not tried first and failed. Failure also has the ability to change and shape us and help us mature and grow into better version of ourselves. As hard as it is in the moment to accept we have failed at something, I believe the big failures are often the best kind. Without them, we would not know and fully appreciate the pleasure of success. I am learning it is through our biggest failures that we learn and grow the most. I haven’t always felt this way. No, it wasn’t until about this time last year that I had lunch with a man named Bob Goff, that I started to give myself permission to fail, and fail BIG.
The story of how I met Bob Goff.
Bob’s book Love Does was just released in May of last year and Bob and the Love Does team was hosting a conference in Austin the following October around Halloween. When I first heard about the conference and that Donald Miller was also going to be there, I immediately purchased my ticket. Having been introduced to Bob, through Donald Miller’s book Million Miles in a Thousand Years, I felt this was the perfect opportunity to meet these men I had read and heard so much about. I had been to conferences like these before, but this one I knew needed to be different. My goal from the very beginning was not just to meet both of them, but introduce myself and spend time with them, and maybe if I was lucky, become friends.
The day of the conference was packed. I had intentionally arrived at the conference early because I had come up with a plan. Before the crowds of people flooded through the doors, I had intended to sneak in by way of acting like I was somebody important and get backstage to introduce myself to Bob and Don before the long line of people competed for their attention. I wanted more than a picture and a handshake. I wanted a conversation. I wanted lunch. As luck would have it, I pulled into the parking lot of the church where the conference was held around the same time as Theron Humprey and Maddie his dog. I had been following @thiswildidea on Instagram for some time, so when I got out of my car I immediately recognized them. I played it cool and sparked up a conversation with Theron as we walked through the parking lot towards the conference together. I asked why he and Maddie were there and he told me he was invited by Bob to speak at the conference. It didn’t take long for me to put together that he and Maddie were my perfect ticket in, to meet Bob and Don. As we talked, I walked confidently and briskly like I knew where I was going. Like I was familiar with the place and been there thousands of times before. I wore a big smile and waved to people pretending to say things like “Hey Sharleen! Great to see ya. How are the kids?” Theron was apparently buying it, and we kept up conversation as we pasted the sign-in tables and crossed through the double doors that blocked the crowds from going in before the conference had started. Theron must have thought I had worked there because he was asking questions I had no idea the answers to and had even assumed the position behind me a few steps back, as I lead him to the auditorium. At one point he even asked if I could lead him to Bob. “Sure!” I said, not having a clue where I was, much less where Bob or his team was either. But, Theron didn’t know that. “I know he is around here somewhere,” I said, trying to maintain confidence and sounding like I had run into him earlier. After walking around the inside of the building for a few minutes, trying not to look lost as I attempted to open several locked doors, Theron and I finally managed to get in through a small side door someone had walked out of. We walked in through the top of the auditorium and down the isles to the stage where a few crew members were doing last minute preparations and Bob and Don were coming on to the stage to do sound check. I did it! I couldn’t believe it! I got in! It was apparent at this point Theron no longer had a use for me and thanked me for my help as he walked backstage like someone who actually was supposed to be there. I didn’t follow him though. I stayed back acting like I had to take care of something because I was too caught up by what just happened and needed to let out the air I seemed to be holding in for the last 10 minutes. I sat down in the audience by the stage for a moment while my heart rate settled back to normal and waited for the right opportunity to approach them. The moment with Don never came. As I would later find out, Don was just there for the introductions and a brief talk to kick off the conference and didn’t plan on staying for more than a couple of hours as he had another flight to catch. Bob however, would be there the whole time and I was determined to meet him and stand out from all the others he would meet that weekend.
Bob finished sound check and handed over his ear piece to a pretty blonde girl and walked off stage left. I hesitated for a few moments wondering if now was the right time to introduce myself. I knew only thinking about it more would only cripple me and keep me seated. I stood up, grabbed my bag and made a bee-line up the stairs onto the stage. With my heart racing, I pretended not too notice the questionable looks from a few of the stage hands, and continued to carry the “its okay, I’m important” look as I made my way straight for Bob. I passed one, two, three people on my way back stage as I just smiled and tried not to make direct eye contact. “Hey Bob!” I yelled, perhaps a bit too loudly, still a few yards behind as he was making his way through a doorway. As he turned I extended my arm for a handshake. Bob was a man that was always smiling and I could almost see his smile before he turned around. He turned, and without hesitation he stepped forward to give me a huge bear hug. “Hi!” he said, in an almost too excited tone. “Hi, Bob. I’m Chris Sawey. Big Fan.” There was a pause so I kept talking. “Listen. Bob. I’m here for the conference because I read your book and think your awesome and wanted to meet you and hopefully if you up for it, take you to lunch while you’re here maybe to eat some Austin’s BBQ. I’m buyin!” I took a breathe. “Oh wow!” He said laughing, “That’s great!” as he reached out for another hug. “Man! I would love to Chris! I don’t think I’ll have time today but maybe come back tomorrow and LETS DO IT!” he said, still laughing. “Great!” I said almost giddy. “I’ll see you tomorrow then!”
As lunch came around the following day, I was beginning to get a little nervous. Not nervous to meet Bob again, we were practically best friends already. (He did hug me twice.) I was more nervous because I hadn’t seen him yet and worried I might not be able to find him. Or worse, what if he forgot? As lunch was getting closer I made the decision to skip out on the last hour before the lunch break and go get the barbeque and bring it back. Just in case he was too busy to go anywhere. I arrived just in time as everyone was breaking for lunch and crowding the stage to get a picture with Bob. The line was long and I worried that the barbeque would get cold and Bob would hate it. I stood close to the stage waiting patiently for the line to go down hoping Bob would glance over and see me holding the white paper lunch bag with grease and barbeque stains beginning to seep from the bottom. He didn’t see me. He turned to walk away and I quickly made my move up the stage stairs towards him. “Bob, I brought your lunch!” I said, immediately feeling foolish that I chose to say that, among the thousand of other things I could have said. “Chris! You made it!…and with barbeque! Awesome! Come on back!” I felt special and important as we talked side by side across the stage, past the stage crew as we made our way to the lounge that had been set up for him and the team. Colorful balloons littered the floor and walls when we walked in as Bob invited me to sit on the couch while he grabbed us some plates. For the next 40 minutes Bob and I talked. He asked me questions and I did my best to try to give him an idea of who I was and how much I admired the way he lived his life. I told him that from what I had read of him, I thought we had a lot in common, and that maybe the two of us were cut from the same cloth, as a lot of his stories were strikingly similar to my own experiences. Without wanting to bore him I jumped right in on why I was so interested in meeting him. I told him that I was afraid that I had started to notice that as I got older I was becoming more “safe” and less willing to step out and take big risks. I told him of my doubts and regrets I had in choosing the career path I did, and my fear of running out of money because what I had went to school for, didn’t pay as well as I hoped or imagined. I let him know I wanted to live a life that was bold and different, much like his, and confessed I had let the world sike me out and convince me that failure, the older I got was more costly. I asked him if he could give me any advise on what I should do. He asked me few more questions about my passions and my dreams and gave me a lot of just interesting Bob Goff advice that could have only come from him. Advice like “quit because it’s Thursday,” and something about not continuing to chase lost dogs. But as he continued, he did something that really stuck out to me. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. Inside his bill-fold he pulled out two red tickets – you know, the kind you get at carnivals or fairs or whatever. “You know what these are?” he asked. “Tickets?” I questioned. “Permission.” he said. “Permission to fail. I carry these tickets around with me because every year I give myself permission to fail and fail BIG.” These are a reminder to me that its okay to fail sometimes and that everything will be okay. Anytime I fail in a big way, and believe me I do it all the time, I just pull one of these red tickets and rip it in half acknowledging my screw up and then I move on.” I laughed out loud because of the ridiculousness of what I was hearing. But at the same time, what Bob was saying kind of made since. I guess in that moment while talking to Bob I acknowledged that failure happens to everyone, even people like Bob Goff. And regardless if we fail sometimes and things don’t go the way we hope them to, everything will be okay in the end. The red tickets aren’t supposed to make the failure non existent or the consequences of the failure disappear, but the tickets did symbolize and simplify that these BIG failures are something that is bound to happen to all of us in life, and give ourselves permission to fail big from time to time. As silly as it sounds, it helped me. Bob reached across the couch and handed me his two tickets. “I’ve got a whole roll of them, you can have these.” I laughed again and told him thanks, and that I appreciated him taking the time to talk with me. Before he stood up to go back on stage he grabbed a fresh napkin from the table and started writing on it. From my angle and his bad lawyer handwriting it was hard to make out what he had wrote. When he was finished, he folded it up and stuck it in his shirt pocket as he stood up, giving me a little wink. I stood up as well and moved around the couch to give him another hug. When we let go he grabbed me by the shoulders and told me to do whatever my heart was telling me to do and to not be afraid of the outcome; that God is going to take care of us. In the background I could hear the music that prompted the audience to find their seats to get started again. I hung back cleaning up our lunch while Bob disappeared for a moment and made his way back on stage. He greeted the audience in big Bob Goff fashion and admitted he hadn’t prepared for what he was going to talk about. He made a couple of jokes and then did something I did not expect. He reached into his pocket and revealed the folded napkin he wrote on during our talk. For the next hour, Bob discussed with all of us fear and the reality of failure. Needless to say, I walked away very encouraged and to this day will never forget my lunch with Bob Goff.
P.S. One month later, I quit my job (surprisingly on a Thursday) and moved into #Hotelprius. Thanks Bob.