Fail, Survive, or Thrive

October 11, 2022 @ 12:00am

In life, in leadership, and in business we have three choices. We can fail, we can survive, or thrive. All three are your choice and you have to decide your destiny. Now I know there are many, many external factors that influence our lives on a daily basis. Sick kids, employee turnover, funding cuts….we have all been dealt those cards before. However, you get to choose how you are going to respond and what the outcome is. Not anyone else.


When I came to Healthfirst, the organization was 43 years young. There had been trials, there had been tribulations. Success and failure. And in May of 2016, unbeknownst to me, that rollercoaster was going to take off at full speed. Now the fact is, I hate rollercoasters and amusement rides. My stomach cannot handle them, and I end up sick. Just ask my husband about our second date. He took me to the Dells to ride the Skyscraper. He also took me directly home after we got off, as I was throwing up. But life, leadership, and business are roller coasters. There will be ups and downs, but how you respond is up to you.

Healthfirst was at a critical fork, or shall we call it a spork, in the road in 2016. Were we going to fail, survive, or thrive? And at about 6 months in my thought was we are going to fail. I had even began looking for a new job, as some of those 43-year-old skeletons began appearing. But after deep reflection, I realized I was brought in as a change maker. I had the ability to choose the destiny of this organization. And as so many who know me personally, and now professionally, I hate failure. It is not who I am, it is not what I am about. When faced with adversity I hit it head on and move through the stage of survival, until I am thriving. Does it take hard work, preservation, sleepless nights? Absolutely! My leadership team often asks me if I sleep at night because some of the most brilliant ideas come to me at two in the morning. (Don’t worry! I do not wake them up at that time to tell them.) But the reward of success outweighs any of the headaches it takes to get there.

Once I got out of my own way, I was able to focus on the needs of the organization. Now did it suck, honestly it did. There were so many things that were neglected for years, from the service lines to the services, to the employees, and facilities. Things were in a bit of disarray. However, we were going to move forward together. And to prove that to my employees and the community. I shouted it from the roof top. Not literally, but I had a large banner printed and hung it from the roof, down the side of the building. It read, “New Leadership, New Direction.” And we moved full speed ahead.

Now for the last six and a half years, the rollercoaster has continued to move forward. And thank goodness there have not been any derailments. However, I do know a guy who has vast experience building railroad bridges. I think he could help rebuild the rollercoaster track as well if I asked, as he has been my rock and motivation as the peaks and valleys have hit. He also has invested much into this organization because his honey-do list often spills over into Healthfirst projects. And I thank him for that.

The rewarding thing though is that the peaks and valleys have not been as drastic in recent years. I have built my dream team, that is ready to respond and conquer every day. And they know that failure and survival are in the past. Our only option as an organization is to thrive, and I will continue to sail that ship as long as I remain the captain. You should have seen their response to a $500,000 funding cut. Within a week there was a plan, and within 5 months-the deficit was gone-that is thriving!

About the author: Jessica Scharfenberg
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