Q: What has been your best mistake ?
Q: What has been your best mistake since you co-founded One Million Lights in the Philippines?
A: We've made many mistakes. The best one we made was starting the organization unprepared and making promises we didn't really know we could keep. In August of 2010, we committed to provide solar powered lights to an isolated community in the Philippines by April 2011, way before we raised funds, figured out how to source and send lights to the community, and deal with other issues like getting local support. Essentially we told the community that they would have lights in a couple of months time.
Why was this a big mistake? We started fundraising not really knowing all the details of our advocacy. We didn't exactly know how to make the project sustainable, or how to present our ideas in the best way possible. The end result of this was rejection, multiple times by multiple groups. We also didn't know how we could stick to our timeline, given that we had no light supplier, means to get the lights to the Philippines, or knowledge of how to go about a distribution in the most effective way. These factors put a lot of stress on me and my co-founder. The setbacks also meant delays and many clutch moments where we barely made deadlines. We also had many of those moments where we thought there is no way we would be able to distribute lights to people we promised in April.
Why was this the best mistake? That promise we made kept us going through hard times. We had so many moments we wanted to quit, the funding rejections, difficulty in sourcing lights, difficulty in getting lights shipped to the Philippines (we were able to get free airfreight but had so many problems because of the batteries in the lights), the long nights spent on problem solving, missing school to work on philippine customs and talk to sponsors, and also the small fights that me and my co-founder would have from time to time. We promised hundreds of families we would light up their homes. Without that promise, there would be very little holding us back from quitting when things got hard. I guess this promise is what eventually made us turn our vision of lighting up homes in the Philippines into a reality.
Moreover, going into the project unprepared forced us to really step up our game really fast. Sure, we had so many set backs from this, and some would call the subsequent rejections wasted time, but for me and my co-founder Tricia, these were moments that taught us valuable lessons on how to conduct ourselves in presentations, how to present, and even how to make our project better from the insight of people's criticisms. I suppose our lack of knowledge motivated us to learn things more quickly considering the looming deadlines. This trial of sorts helped us internalize what would be needed to make things work, and also internalize what the initiative really meant to us. It made us more invested in the initiative. If things were easy for us, our passion in sustaining this dream of ours may be less. Going into things unprepared and striving to make things work at the end of the day by learning from mistakes and applying learnings asap made us more experienced, invested, and equipped to handle the challenges to come.
This also showed me that even bad things can become good things if the right attitude is applied to the situation.
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