Chicago Cohort

Wrestling with Failure at Work

By Hunter Daniels

More than other idols, personal success and achievement leads to a sense that we ourselves are god, that our security and value rests in our own wisdom, strength, and performance. To be the very best at what you do, to be at the top of the heap, means no one is like you. You are supreme.
— Tim Keller in Counterfeit Gods

A month before attending the 2019 Global Cohort Gathering, in Saddleback, CA, (where Christian global leaders all over the world are gathered to learn, connect, and be challenged to make impact in their global cities) I was drafting the most painful document I have ever had to write; I was writing an incident report at work. The incident involved one of our most strategic clients; and I was on the hook for a mistake that I did not catch (picture an infielder missing a pop-fly). It is difficult to overestimate the toll this had on my spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing. To me, writing that report meant that I was forced to admit that I had failed, that I was incompetent and that I was worthless. I had worked hard to be the best performer on my team, to be the guy you could rely on and I was proud of my “exceptional performance” evaluation. This failure stood in direct contrast of who I thought myself to be and, more importantly, whom I wanted others to think I was.

While at the gathering, I heard several speakers talk candidly about dealing with failure at work and I was convicted by their anecdotes. Bob Doll gave a lecture entitled “Failure- The Stepping Stone to Success” that provided me with much needed guidance. To provide context, Bob was the Chief Equity Strategist of a large asset management firm and has used his God given gifts to attain what many would consider a highly successful career. In his lecture, Bob discussed a time in recent history where he was asked by his previous firm to retire early and the impact it made on his life. It is difficult to imagine attaining Bob’s level of success only to be let go at what would be his “prime career years”. But his response was not to wallow in failure or to blame God for misfortune or engage in destructive self-loathing. No, instead he used his situation as an opportunity to further engage with Christ, his community and his family- what an amazingly faithful response! Ultimately, God blessed him with the opportunity to continue using his financial expertise, but his initial response represents the posture we, as Christ followers, should model in the midst of failure and success in work.

Upon reflection, I’ve come to realize how much my sense of identity was based on success in work. This realization came as a surprise to me (shocking I know). I didn’t think I was idolizing my work, yet it wasn’t until failure at work sent me into a spiral of self-degradation that I realized my priorities were grossly out of order. This, I think, is at the heart of Bob’s lecture; it is difficult to know we’re idolizing success until it is ripped away from us, which then forcibly creates the stepping-stone to success. Success in this context is not about promotions, bonuses or societal praise; it is the stepping-stone to further reliance on God for our joy and worth. We are free from performance evaluations because we can never be “exceptional” before God. We are all hopeless and complete failures when it comes to our worthiness of God’s love yet He gives it anyways. This is the radical promise God makes to His people that is the source of our joy, that God looks at us and sees his Son.

Hunter Daniels works in the finance industry and was part of our Chicago Cohort in 2019.

Familiar and Unfamiliar Territory

By Michelle Tan

I was part of the second Resource Global Chicago Cohort (2017-2018). And recently, I had the opportunity to participate as a speaker in one of the workshops at the LEAD conference in Jakarta. The vision for the LEAD Conference is creating better companies, lead to better cities, and ultimately a better world. This was an initiative that the Jakarta Cohort Alumni had proposed to help their own employees in Jakarta.


Therefore, I had the privilege to talk about how to improve finance processes with technology. Preparing for the presentation was challenging because I realized that although I identify myself as an Indonesian, I have never worked in Indonesia and have limited knowledge about what the marketplace in Jakarta is like. 

Fast forward to the day of my workshop. My presentation went smoothly, but I quickly became aware that the business environment in Indonesia is so different. My audience consisted of mainly mid-management workers and below. And not till after my workshop did I realize that most of them only really used Microsoft Excel as their main technology tool and even some others who worked in family owned businesses still just used paper documentation. 

Although my main goal of participating in the conference was to give back to the people in Indonesia, I felt like I was the one who gained valuable perspectives. I started to understand what work life is like outside of the United States and learned about the roadblocks that are preventing businesses in Indonesia from advancing, ranging from financial to cultural reasons. Last but not least, I gained an appreciation for the values that we so often take for granted in the States, whether that be values of equality, fair pay or even general business ethics. 

In contrast, during the conference, I was also able to meet some of my amazing peer presenters who were working for corporations in Indonesia. These were young leaders (all from previous Jakarta cohorts) who were just a couple of years older than me, but many were leading billion dollar companies and affecting the lives of thousands of employees. I am amazed at the things that God is doing through these young leaders, and amazed to see their heart for the city of Jakarta. They were a real life example of Jeremiah 29:7 where God asked us to seek the prosperity of the city where we are sent exile, for its welfare will determine our welfare. Not to mention their incredible humility, courage and faith while taking up such challenging roles in a difficult business environment and climate. 

I am coming back to the US with an encouraged and excited heart; knowing that God has given me the strength to make a change that God has given my peers in Indonesia. My battlefield and challenges here may look different, but my heart for the people of the city where I live in remains the same. I am blessed to have been able to participate in the LEAD conference, my physical body is exhausted but my heart is so full!

Michelle Tan was part of our Chicago Cohort in 2017-2018. She is originally from Indonesia, but currently resides in Chicago with her husband Sean. She currently works for an consulting firm specifically in the finance and accounting area.

The Unexpected Leap: Trading My Strategic Ideas for God’s Purpose

By Joi Freeman

Have you ever taken a professional leap of faith? Was it like Naaman taking several dips in the water or Peter’s fearful steps as he walked on water?

I have experienced both. Yet, my most impacting leap of­ faith was not a leap at all. It was more like an abrupt, unexpected plunge down a cistern which was followed by what I can only describe as a series of “be still” moments that felt more like spending my young professional years stuck in an Egyptian prison for a crime I didn’t commit versus feeling like a season of growth.  

“But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” -Joseph (Genesis 40:14-15 NIV)

These moments of solitary confinement with God have equipped me with a new vocabulary. I learned that “leaping” is not always an action verb. In the Kingdom of God version of the dictionary, to “leap” is often passive. In this season of my life, leaps of professional faith are lessons on how to allow God to unfold his purpose for my life. My professional mentor Joseph (yes, the one from the book of Genesis) has taught me incredible lessons about the art of staying put in faith and trusting the vision God planted in me even when the road is unpaved and full of detours.

Like Joseph, God gave me a vision at a (relatively) young age. In 2010, while reading a foreign affairs magazine article about the predictions of population growth, God painted a clear picture that I would help open doors for the next generation to positively impact the world and major industries. And through this amazing bold view of what He called me to; I saw all the ways that I could influence this next generation, and especially youth of the African diaspora, to be the force for positive change and restoring what God intended when he gave us dominion in Genesis.

A person may have many ideas concerning God’s plan for his life,
but only the designs of his purpose will succeed in the end. -- Proverbs 19:21 TPT

So as any driven, passionate, talented professional would do, I took it upon myself to convert God’s vision into an action plan.

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The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. –Genesis 40:23

This revised journey in which God designed for me includes moments of professional disappointment, frustration, and pain. Yet each of my “Egyptian prison” moments helped create a conviction that God permits us to undergo difficult experiences; and it is those experiences which develop our character, increase our endurance, and prepare us for the journey ahead. Without Joseph facing the cistern, the false accusations, the prison sentence, and delayed parole; the people of Egypt and surrounding regions would not have survived the famine. Joseph’s family would not have been spared, and the vision he saw at age seventeen could not be fulfilled.

When I started this leap of faith, I was certain that I could change the world. Yet, inspired by Joseph, I now understand that it is not my plans or ideas that will carry me. Rather, it is my willingness to sit at the center of God’s will for my life and with that posture his purpose for my profession will prevail. And as I learn to imitate Joseph’s work ethic and outlook on professional detours, I believe this new outlook on leaping into faith will ultimately lead me to my original Step 6.

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ – Jesus, on Stewardship & Investment (Matthew 25:21)

Joi Freeman is part of our third Chicago Cohort. She is currently doing some part-time consulting work and also in a leadership MBA program in Chicago .