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- Be Fearless
In June, we released what we believe are five elements to a fearless approach in solving some of the world’s most pressing issues, in our new website and report, “To Be Fearless.” We are asking people to take the pledge to Be Fearless in one (or more!) of the following ways: 1) Make big bets and make history; 2) Experiment early and often; 3) Make failure matter; 4) Reach beyond your bubble; and 5) Let urgency conquer fear.
To celebrate the Olympics, we’ll be featuring a new blog series in partnership with the Special Olympics for the next few weeks, highlighting the fearless journeys of athletes, volunteers, and leadership from the organization. In part three, we are featuring George Srour—a Special Olympics volunteer for 15 years, and founder of an organization that empowers young people to support education access for children in East Africa. George shares how he and Special Olympics athlete Shane McPheron have learned to make failure matter in their journey to Be Fearless.
Note from the Special Olympics: George Srour has been a volunteer with Special Olympics for 15 years, volunteering at his local program in Indiana and as part of Special Olympics Team USA for the past three Special Olympics World Games. In 2006, he founded Building Tomorrow, a social-profit organization empowering young people to invest in providing access to education for underserved children in East Africa. In 2011, Building Tomorrow made a public commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to increase access to quality education for tens of thousands of school children throughout East Africa by constructing at least 60 community-built, stakeholder-sustained Building Tomorrow academies, and further develop the teaching capacity of at least 450 rural based teachers by 2016. Srour shares how Special Olympics has taught him to Be Fearless in his journey to be a changemaker.
If you watch Shane McPheron, a Special Olympics Indiana athlete, bowl for one frame, you'd never believe his parents were told he would never talk or be very active. Stay another minute, and you’d hope his fearlessness is somehow contagious.
My friendship with Shane took flight as we prepared to compete as Unified Partners in the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games. As a new volunteer working with Special Olympics in my middle school’s district, Shane was just one of several athletes I was beginning to spend lots of time with.
After school, we’d head to the bowling alley three times a week and between the two of us, throw our fair share of gutter balls. Maddening as they were, I’d feel my frustration bubbling up while Shane would come off the lane and ask a trademarked combo of two questions back-to-back, “What did I do wrong? What can I do better?”
As the World Games neared, many of the balls that once went wide left were hitting right on target. And despite a slow, continual climb of our scores, when a gutter ball came his way, Shane had his questions at the ready. Gutter balls equaled failure, and failure in Shane’s mind was the best opportunity to envision success.
“I’ll get it next time.”
Shane’s teachings and those of the many athletes I’ve had the chance to work with over the last 15 years as a Special Olympics volunteer guide me in the work I do today. As Chief Dreamer of Building Tomorrow, I work with hundreds of young people across the United States to provide opportunities for children in sub-Saharan Africa to access an education. And whether it’s while working with our US campus chapters or sitting down with our staff in Uganda, I find myself asking the collective version of Shane’s question, “What can we do better?”
Whether it’s a gutter ball gone wide left or a specific program in need of more direction, I’m grateful for the approach Shane’s taught me to make failure matter.
After all, that’s the only way we can get it next time.