I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. — Michael Jordan
I am so tired of hearing this, seeing it and listening to people say this to me – the inevitable “you have to fail to succeed” quote. This is right up there with “practice makes perfect”. You’re wrong! Practice doesn’t make perfect if you have NO IDEA what you are doing or if you are reinforcing the same mistakes over and over and over again.
I always find it funny when I hear people use their fail to succeed mantra, as if failure is the key ingredient. It isn’t!
There are people who fail and continue to fail and there are people who fail and learn from their mistakes. Why isn’t that part ever included in the motivational quote? Is it too hard? Did you run out of room? Wasn’t it catchy enough? It’s like the “wisdom comes from judgment, and judgment comes from bad decisions, therefore wisdom comes from bad decisions” quote. No, it doesn’t. Wisdom comes from the insights derived from making bad decisions by being intelligent and applying analysis to it so you can identify an alternative path. You know what also comes form bad decisions? Teen pregnancy, getting hit by cars, bungee jumping without tightening your harness, cracking your skull when you roof dive into the pool deck. All of those come from bad decisions and bad judgment, oh yeah, along with wisdom.
Beyond the second step of recognizing you made a mistake and learned from it is doing a self analysis to determine if you have the capabilities to be able to do anything different the next time to achieve a different and hopefully better result. If you don’t have the capabilities, can you gain them? If not, move on. I guess you could say that success comes from failure if you move onto a different activity because you came to the conclusion that you sucked at that one, alternatively choosing one you were better aligned to. I could fail and fail and fail and fail all I want and I will never win an NBA MVP award, no matter how much I learn or how hard I try. Can I go to the guy who sells the “Fail to Succeed” plaques and ask him for my money back? Can I tell him that this causal relationship implied may not pass the sufficiency test?
This mantra has now been so embedded into business that we have people that use it as an excuse, especially those coming right out of school, as if failing is something to be proud of. It isn’t. Personally, I want my teams to try new things and they can make a new mistake every day, because it means that they are trying new things and innovating. But let’s be realistic here. I don’t hire idiots and I expect that coming in, they have a certain set of capabilities and the intelligence to know the difference between something that works and something that doesn’t. And let’s also reinforce that I’m talking about a new mistake each day, not saying it’s okay to make the same mistake over and over again. Applying this philosophy and using it as an excuse for someone to make the same mistake over and over and over again shouldn’t be applauded. That just means that they lack awareness of the objectives of the job or they lack self awareness of how their capabilities map to those requirements. Either way, I’m not going to recommend them for a bonus because they tried and failed numerous times, no matter how many times they tell me they are on the path to success nirvana through their actions. These people clearly missed the important second phase of this process – learn from that failure/mistake and don’t do it again.
Jordan may have lost more than 9,000 shots, and 300 games, but according to his Wikipedia page he also received acknowledgment for:
- Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2009
- 2 Olympic Gold Medals – 1984, 1992
- 6× NBA Champion
- 6× NBA Finals MVP
- 5× NBA MVP
- 10 NBA Scoring Titles
- 3× steals leader
- 3× minutes leader
- 14 NBA All-Star Selections
- 3× NBA All-Star Game MVP
- 11 All-NBA Selections
- 9 All-Defensive First Team Selections
- 2× NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion – 1987, 1988
- NBA Rookie of the Year – 1984–85
- NBA Defensive Player of the Year – 1987–88
- NCAA National Championship – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: 1981–82
- ACC Freshman of the Year – 1981–82
- 2× Consensus NCAA All-American First Team – 1982–83, 1983–84
- ACC Men’s Basketball Player of the Year – 1983–84
- USBWA College Player of the Year – 1983–84
- Naismith College Player of the Year – 1983–84
- John R. Wooden Award – 1983–84
- Adolph Rupp Trophy – 1983–84
- Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year – 1991
- Named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996
- Ranked No.1 by SLAM Magazine’s Top 50 Players of All-Time
- Ranked No.1 by ESPN Sportscentury’s Top 100 Athletes of the 20th century
- Elected to North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame
We don’t recognize how amazing Jordan is because of the 9,000 shots he missed or the 300 games he lost or the game winning shots he missed. We are in awe of him because he achieved all these awards and honors IN SPITE of this.