I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life……”
What would you think of a person who is speaking these lines? It would be easy to assume that if this person has failed so many times, he/she must not be a very successful person. Well, think again!
His “Airness” Michael Jordan!
This person is none other than the Michael Jordan. He is widely acknowledged as the greatest basketball player of all-time. His athletic skills, flamboyant acrobatics, and his ability to “hang” in the air while making baskets earned him the nick name – “His Airness”. As per Forbes list – he is the richest basketball player ever and is worth a cool $1.3 billion! In 2015, more than 12 years after his retirement, the Air Jordan brand (shoes and apparel sold by Nike) – was still the highest selling brand, with more sales than that of any basketball player – active or retired.
So why is the richest and most successful player, Michael Jordan, talking about his failures? It is part of sports apparel maker Nike’s advertisement campaign. It is one of the best and inspiring ads, which you can watch below.
The punch line of the advertisement comes at the end. “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life…… And that is why I succeed.”
It is a simple yet profound lesson about how we should handle failure in our lives. If we are not failing from time to time, if we are not failing at least at some of the things we do – it is quite likely that we are not pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones. If we are afraid to fail and happy to stay in our comfort zones, we will not grow any further and never come close to achieving our full potential.
Is failure the opposite of success?
Intellectually we know the fact that failure is not opposite of success – but failure is the way to success. However, when failure hits us while we are attempting something new, our emotions often overwhelm us. We don’t like the feeling of failure, it is uncomfortable. This discomfort often stops us from trying again. And we give up before we can give ourselves enough chances, enough attempts to be able to succeed.
Think about anything that you have learnt in your life, anything you are good at. Are you good at – speaking in public, playing tennis, computer programming, dancing, or fill in whatever you are good at? I am willing to bet that at some point in time when you started it, you were no good at all! You failed at it miserably! But you did not let failure bother you and kept making additional attempts. In fact, you kept trying until one day you became good at it!
Failure is the way to success!
This is how human beings are designed and this is how we learn and get good at anything! Think about how a child learns to walk. It is a progression from lying down on the back, to turn over, to crawling and to stand up with some support. Eventually, the child will take her first step or two and fall down immediately. After multiple attempts over several days, the child eventually learns to walk and gets good at walking!
Let me ask you a question. How many attempts will you allow this child who is learning to walk? 5,10, 25, 50, 100 attempts? Would you tell this child – “you have already made a hundred attempts at walking – and you still have not learnt how to walk! This walking stuff in not for you! You are no good at it! Do something else, give up on this walking stuff!”
That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? In fact, you would rather encourage the child to keep trying and make as many attempts as are needed till she learns to walk. And that is the right approach if you want the child to learn how to walk.
Reminder: Fail over and over and over again!
But often as adults, we are not that generous with ourselves when we are attempt something new. Often we try something new and challenging, once, twice, or may be a dozen times before we conclude that we are not good at whatever new skill or task we are attempting. Often we need to encourage ourselves to keep trying, over and over and over again, despite failures, until we succeed! We need to master the art of failure!
What are the things that you have given up on, after just a few failed attempts? What would you attempt if you were not afraid to fail? Share your thoughts and comments.