Corey’s Corner: a challenge to do something daring

President Barry Corey challenges the Biola community to set and achieve goals.


| Photo courtesy of University Communications and Marketing

President Barry Corey, Writer

Courtesy | University Communications and Marketing

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

That’s the quote on a metal paperweight I keep on my desk. Lisa Swain, a professor in the cinema and media arts department, gave it to me not long after I arrived at Biola. I heard the good professor say through that gift that sometimes leaders have to go for it. They have to look into the uncertainty of the future and make a decision that could risk failure.

That paperweight is a daily reminder that living without regrets is living a life too safe, at least for me.

Plenty of times I went for it only to get knocked back on my rear end. Graduate schools have rejected me. Job applications I’ve submitted have ended up in Never Never Land. In high school and college, and beyond, girls have either said “no” when I asked for a date or jilted me after saying “yes.” I know what it’s like to try and fall short:

·   To lose a student government election

·   To mess up a speech, in a major way

·   To plan an event that no one attended

·   To play a musical solo that brought laughter when I’d hoped for applause

·   To make the high school football team only never to play

·   To attempt a new hobby that was far from my skill set

In some ways failures have made me more cautious. In other ways failures have strengthened my resolve.

In a little more than two weeks, a whole bunch of you will graduate from Biola. You’re getting that degree because you didn't quit. And along the way, you’ve had some setbacks. Things didn’t work as you planned. On the other end of May 24 you’ll be taking some risks. At least I hope you will, within reason. Stretch your imagination.

·   Self-publish a book even if few people read it

·   Backpack on a trail that you’ve never hiked before

·   Start a business with that idea that’s been keeping you awake

·   Ask her or him out

·   Recite some of your poems at a poetry house

·   Run a marathon for a cause

·   Start a charity or volunteer at a children’s hospital

·   Ask God to give you dreams beyond your own horizons of reality

Back in my 20s I took some chances that were tough to make. But I’m glad I did, even the ones that imploded on me. So I exhort you to live a life where your imagination is fertile, where you embrace the innovative, where you take risks that stretch you beyond your present dexterity.

Woody Allen said (not in one of our chapel services), “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you're not doing anything very innovative.”

Now that I’m 51, risk taking has become less instinctive and more complicated. But, I pray that I don’t lose it. A faculty member looked me in the eye last week and challenged me to go for it big on one of the ideas I had. I’m taking him up on it, not dinking around the edges but getting in, heart and soul. And as I do, I’ll look even more frequently at the paperweight given to me by Professor Swain.

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

As the semester winds to a close, recall the words of one of America’s most daring of presidents, the Rough Rider, Teddy Roosevelt:

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure … than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

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