Milwaukee shouldn’t fear to fail

    Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:41 pm

    A few years ago, when I worked at Forward Wisconsin, I heard it said that if an entrepreneur working in California went to a bank to see about getting a loan, the bank wasn’t interested in you unless you had gone bankrupt twice. If that same entrepreneur were working in Wisconsin and went to a Wisconsin bank, the banker would not be interested if you went bankrupt even once.
    Whether it is true or not, I think it does fairly well sum up the differences in the idea of fearing to fail.
    One could argue that our being fiscally cautious makes us attractive to people who are looking for a solid, winning investment. No argument there. But in this time of rapid change and being on the cutting-edge of the next revolution, maybe it is time to check our fear of failure at the door.
    Yes, we need to make clear, sound decisions, but if we don’t move past this fear of failure, we most certainly will become paralyzed and end up doing nothing. Today, doing nothing is the kiss of death.
    In some ways, we should actually be encouraging risk-taking, because from this action we grow and improve. On that point, I happened to be speaking with my friend Gerald Rappaport about this idea of failure, and he referenced a quote of an athlete who was arguably rather successful: "I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." That was said by Michael Jordan.
    When you look at economic development magazines that cover the United States, you will see page after page of advertisements by states and cities that beat their chests about how innovative they are. Additionally, you can’t go anywhere in economic circles without someone talking about the need to attract the "creative class."
    It is one thing to make bold proclamations; it is another to do be innovative and creative.  I believe that those who truly have it also have the right attitude.
    There is a reason why innovative and creative people seem to locate in places where there is an attitude of risk taking. These individuals want to avoid stagnant places – cities that are not willing to break some rules.
    No fear means no longer second-guessing yourself. No fear means no longer doing it as others have done it but setting the new standard from which others follow. No fear is getting up when you fall and charging ahead with renewed vigor. Let me say that I am not immune from sometimes wanting to be cautious. I remind myself that being innovative and creative is, by its nature, a risky business and if I want to succeed in that area I must tackle those fears and questions.
    I ask myself as an observer, what is taking place in Milwaukee? Does this community have the right attitude of no fear? Yes and no.
    When I look at the dramatic changes that have taken place in Milwaukee, I see that right attitude – often with people who are "flying under the radar." I think of the real estate developer who quietly goes about his business by moving forward in the uncharted areas of the city. Or the restaurateur who ignores the skeptics as she opens the dining experience that breaks all the rules.
    At the same time, I also too often see "leaders" who stick their finger in the air to check if there is the slightest breeze of criticism. These are the same people who then question why another city or state always keeps surging forward.
    The answer is simple – no fear.
    This word "leadership" can be used pretty liberally by some people, but they forget that the first syllable in that word is "lead." My interpretation of that word means going where no one else has gone before. Unfortunately, all too often I think what happens is that the word lead gets substituted with the word "follow."
    Some leaders think that the way to lead is to say no. No is actually easy to say. True leaders dream, build, have a big vision and say yes. These are the type of leaders who inspire people.
    In closing, I am reminded of my childhood and listening to Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise, stating that their mission is "to boldly go where no man has gone before." Bold, fearless leadership.
    "Beam me up."

    Dean Amhaus is president of Spirit of Milwaukee and can be reached at (414) 277-8272.


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