As a dotStaff™ trainer, I am responsible for introducing new system users to our VMS, though occasionally people escape my clutches. Recently, a new vendor dove into dotStaff™ without benefit of training. “Han Solo” made so many mistakes setting things up for his temps that the program manager and I, in the wake of broken bits, raced to fix things as soon as he broke them.  Afterwards, the manager said, “it would be so nice if they would ask BEFORE trying to do it on their own. ”  I asked, “But where would the world be, without such chutzpah!?”

I love people with chutzpah.  In Yiddish it means “shameless audacity,”  or  “Courage bordering on arrogance.” In fact, instead of FailBlog, I wish someone would start a ChutzpahBlog.  Who cares about someone falling into a fountain?  What if someone had captured Rosa Parks refusing to get out of her seat? Acts of chutzpah completely inspire me.

Because it’s one of my favorite qualities, I’ve thought about how to cultivate it in myself.  Here’s a formula I devised that has worked for me:

Connect to what you value

+ Abandon all Limiting Beliefs about Failure

+ Take Action

= Chutzpah

Connect to what you value: It is much easier to have chutzpah when the thing you want connects directly to what you value.  Rosa Parks valued freedom and equality, and risked being arrested because she was “tired of giving in.”    Think about a time you found your voice or spoke out, or did something out of the ordinary.  You honored something you valued.   Connect to that, and it’s like rocket energy, boosting you forward.

Abandoning Limiting Beliefs about Failure: I recently researched qualities of risk-takers, and learned they see failure differently than many of us. What the Average Joe calls a mistake, someone with chutzpah calls information.  How liberating, to be free of such paralyzing judgment.  We are a failure phobic culture, equating failure with incompetence and stupidity.  To make matters worse, we shame those who fail (i.e. recent headline:  “Biggest Loser GAINS 9 pounds!”).  With all that at stake, no wonder people avoid trying new things or finding their edge. The person with chutzpah though, doesn’t buy into failure.  When you have chutzpah, you want to know how it will turn out.  You are neutral about the outcome—curious, knowing the result from doing that risky thing will gain you far more than not doing that thing.

Take Action. Napoleon Hill, a pioneer in personal success literature, tells the story of an elderly man who came up to him after one of his lectures holding a stack of papers and said, “Nothing you say is new.  I have it all right here on these sheets of paper!”  Napolean laughed and said, “You may be right, but I did something about it!”  You can connect to what you value and abandon limiting beliefs about failure, but without the doing part, you fall short of chutzpah.

What happens when you apply the formula for chutzpah? You create lightning in a bottle.  In October, family and friends all drew, painted and sewed artwork on a dress I sewed for an opening night party for the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Here it is:

I hatched a plan in advance, which involved making my dress a part of their permanent exhibit. I loved the idea of honoring  the talents of all who created this dress.   I saw a group of people gathered around Tom Sokolowski, the Director of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

I walked up to him and shook his hand and introduced myself.  “I like your dress,” he said.  I said, “Thank you! Would you like to buy it for the museum?”  He said, “No thank you, but if you’d like to donate it, we would love that.” I said I would think about that.  Did I fail? Not at all.  Did I cement my nerviness that night? One hundred percent!

Each of us has something we value we’re a little afraid to present to the world.  It may be a personal project, or an idea at your job you want to implement.  The truth is, you won’t know the outcome unless you launch it.  But whether you simply gain information  like Han Solo above (he learned he needed training on dotStaff™), or pave the way for equality, like Rosa Parks—you and those around you, benefit from your chutzpah.

(These photos appeared in The Indianapolis Star on Oct. 10, 2010, and were taken by Alan Petersime. Link to additional photos of the event: Click here)