August 13, 2018

A failure playlist to help you sleep at night

You have always been asked to talk about your failures, but it's never easy, is it? Well, now you have the option to sing about your failures too.

4 min read

Failure is endemic to social impact work. Unfortunately, it’s also endemic to love. And thus, songwriters have always been able to tap into the bowels of failure to help us feel better in our lives. Here’s a “failure playlist” you can dive into when change-making knocks you down:

1. When a key funder pulls out, government regulation changes for the worse, and your star employee jumps ship–all in the same week | 4 Non Blondes – What’s Up

And so I cry sometimes, when I’m lying in bed
Just to get it all out, what’s in my head
And I’m…I’m feeling…a little peculiar
Until I wake in the morning and I step outside
And I take a deep breath and I get real high
And I…I scream from the top off my lungs
What’s going on???

2. When you hired the candidate who seduced you with a bluechip CV, and overlooked the modest, purpose-driven one who would do anything for the mission | Britney Spears – Oops I Did it Again

You see my problem is this, I’m dreaming away
Wishing that heroes, they truly exist
I cry, watching the days
Can’t you see I’m a fool, in so many ways
But to lose all my senses, that is just so typically me
Oh baby, baby, oops, I did it again


3. When no matter how many incentives you offer, or how much effort you put into designing it, your desired target audience doesn’t use your product/show up to training/make the behavioral choices you want them to| Kenny Rogers – The Gambler 

You gotta know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run

4. After the first five funders reject your proposal, and you’ve got one last, desperate meeting with a potential funder | Shakira – WakaWaka

You’re a good soldier, choosing your battles
Pick yourself up and dust yourself off, and back in the saddle
You’re on the frontlines, everyone’s watching,
You know it’s serious, we’re getting closer, this isn’t over
The pressure’s on, you feel it
But you got it all, believe it!
When you fall, get up, oh oh
And if you fall, get up, eh eh

5. All those mentors and advisors who remind you that failure is just part of ‘the journey’ of social change | Jimmy Cliff – You Can Get it if you Really Want

Rome was not built in a day
Opposition will come your way
But the harder the battle may seem
The sweeter is the victory
You can get it if you really want
You can get it if you really want
You can get it if you really want
But you must try, try and try, try and try
You’ll succeed at last

Related article: A nonprofit playlist to help you get through life 

6. What you really want to tell all those annoying mentors and advisors who say failure is part of the process| TLC – No Scrubs 

So no, I don’t want your number
No, I don’t want to give you mine and
No, I don’t want to meet you nowhere
No, I don’t want none of your time

 7. When that hotshot young founder who beat you to your dream social enterprise fellowship then ‘pivots’, quits, and goes off to Harvard/Stanford/Oxford on a scholarship| Cee Lo Green – **** You

I see you drivin’ round town
With the girl I love
And I’m like “**** you” (ooo, ooo, oooo)

I guess the [social] change in my pocket wasn’t enough
I’m like “**** you, and, uh, “**** her too”

8. When you go back to the small donor with unrestricted funds because the big ticket foundation/impact investor has so many reporting requirements you need to hire someone (and get spanked for higher overheads) just to deal with them| The Beatles – Help! 

And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before
Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me?

9. When you decide to get off the Board of Directors but you know it’s going to break the Executive Director’s heart | Bob Dylan/The Turtles – It Ain’t Me Babe

You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Never weak but always strong
To protect you and defend you
Whether you are right or wrong
Someone to open each and every door
But it ain’t me, babe
No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe

And because it’s the song that keeps on giving,

10. Here’s the letter from the funder you courted for months, who then ultimately rejected your grant proposal after multiple site visits, re-writes, and dinner meetings you missed with your kids |Britney Spears – Oops I Did it Again

I think I did it again
I made you believe we’re more than just friends
Oh baby, it might seem like a crush
But it doesn’t mean, that I’m serious
‘Cause to lose all my senses, that is just so typically me
Oh baby, baby, oops, I did it again

Bonus Track

11. In the end, no matter how hard it gets, or how far away impact seems, there’s only one approach to the day | Taylor Swift – Shake it Off

‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off

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Roshan Paul-Image
Roshan Paul

Roshan is the co-founder and CEO of Amani Institute, a global social enterprise dedicated to developing professionals who create social impact, both through innovative education programs as well as capacity building for organisations. Prior to Amani, he worked with Ashoka Changemakers for a decade around the world. He is the author of two books: ‘Such a Lot of World‘, a novel, and ‘Your Work Begins at No’, a collection of essays on social impact education.