Against the Odds

July 19, 2017



Written By: Thom

By Thom Peters

A note from the author – remember, your results may vary.

I recently had a chance to stop in Louisiana, Missouri. I had first visited this community more than a dozen years ago, in a former job. There is a reason that most of you probably never heard of Louisiana – its REALLY small.

I reintroduced myself to one of the key volunteers who had been part of the effort back then. She was thrilled to see me and introduced me to her companion by saying, “This is one of the guys who said we couldn’t support a Y.”

After defending myself and my former employer, I asked her what had happened since that recommendation. She explained that the volunteers had been very discouraged by the results of the study but finally asked themselves, “What would happen if we went forward anyway?”

I admit, I hesitate to share this story. The recommendations given to any organization from a consultant or governing body should be taken very seriously. And yet, here I stood in a tiny town with a modest YMCA at the heart of it. What made them beat the odds?

  • The analysis was right that the numbers didn’t add up. But numbers can only tell you the odds. Outcomes depend on tenacity and courage. Leadership is everything.
  • They acknowledged and accepted the significant risk of failure, which would stop most of us. In fact they failed many times in the process, but were willing to keep going because they knew success would impact many lives. In this case, they knew exactly what was at stake because they knew the people of the town personally and lived there themselves.
  • This was not a small-group effort but a community-wide effort. Everyone had skin in the game.
  • They right-sized their project, being willing to down-size as necessary.
  • They identified a strong and urgent case. “Want” will not beat the odds. “Need” will.

This Y joins a small but mighty list of other organizations that have thrived against the odds.

Before you take this as a cue to ignore the advice given to you however, I encourage you to remember that accepting a high risk of failure is part of the package. Success is never guaranteed and going against the odds diminishes your chances even more. These kinds of risks are not for everyone.

As I finished my conversation with this volunteer leader, she asked if I had stopped by the Y yet (I hadn’t). With a beaming smile she said to make sure I checked out their new pool.

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3 responses to “Against the Odds”

  1. John Alexander says:

    Thom, thanks for sharing this story, both here and personally last week.

  2. Mike Mike Bussey says:

    Great blog Tommy!

    The right leadership at the right time can make things happen!

  3. b finlay says:

    Thanks Thom,

    I need this in light our work to come!