How to Fail in Basketball and in Life (part 1 of 3)

failure02aIf you were to you ask 100 people what the opposite of success is, 100 of them would say, “Failure.” However, if were you ask enough people, you would eventually find someone that could give you the right answer: self-deception.

Failure

Failure is NOT the opposite of success.

To the contrary, failure is an essential main ingredient for success. No phenomenal 3-point shooter ever became great without missing plenty of shots getting there. Obviously, missed shots are as much a prerequisite to becoming a great shooter as is raw talent, so why do so many of us keep forgetting that?

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six 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

People who understand that failure is just a part of success see their lives, including their basketball lives, like an airline pilot sees flying a jet airliner. You cannot just point an airplane at its desired destination, press “Go,” and sit back and wait to see if it will be successful. That’s absurd, yet we see people act that way in things ranging from basketball game plans to marriages and raising kids.

No matter how sincere we are as we carefully aim our efforts at our desired destinations, if we move forward with no real system or plan for effective self-evaluation and correction, we’ve committed ourselves to quite a precarious journey.

The reality is that every flight requires perpetual in-flight adjustments, based on trusted feedback, in order to counteract the winds pushing it off course.

flight_anc_jnuFor example, Alaska Airlines flies between Anchorage and Juneau at least 4 times a day, yet despite all that practice, no flight ever travels a perfectly straight line all the way to its destination. In fact, I’ve read that every jet is off course 90% of the time it is in the air.

Failing 90% of the time is no big deal to airline pilots though, because they are very clear about what they specifically need to do to turn all that failure into eventual success.

Just think: if airline pilots did what we coaches and players tend to do, (in sports and in life), when we are failing…

  • They would spend nearly the entire flight upset at the headwind.
  • They would leap to some data-less conclusion about what is wrong and yell at the engine to give more effort.
  • They would ignore the fuel gauges and set goals oblivious of their actual capacity to reach them.
  • They would live in denial of what the instruments are telling them their true location and direction is, and act based on what they want to be true.
  • They would be so preoccupied with making excuses and assigning blame that they would not be making the necessary corrections, so the flight would be drifting even further off course.
  • When forces outside their control pushed them off course, they’d conclude that the forces were just too powerful, call their flight crew together, give them a rousing motivational speech, slap them on their butts, then make their best employees sit out the rest of the flight while the pilots pout and fume.

Those who understand failure’s relationship to success see failure as feedback and adjust their efforts accordingly. Those that don’t, fear failure and avoid it altogether — thus deceiving themselves into inadvertently becoming their own biggest obstacle to success.

Would you buy a ticket for an airlines whose pilots thought like that? Would you put your child on such a flight? Your mother-in-law? Okay, don’t answer that last question.

If you wouldn’t trust your loved ones to such an organization, why should parents trust you to coach their young people if you think and act that way?

Of course we will lose games — big games even — and we will make mistakes along the way. Failure during a season is just a given, and should be viewed as feedback to guide our mid-course adjustments. When the numbers aren’t what we want them to be, take whatever action is required to put them back on course, regardless how lowly or difficult, trivial or heroic those actions may be.

failure01aWhen you think about it, perhaps the biggest reason any plane safely reaches its intended destination is that its pilot confidently refuses to succumb to adverse forces. Consequently, although technically planes are failing 90% of the journey, they ultimately succeed in nearly 100% of their journeys.

Pilots simply see failure as a signal to make an adjustment, not as a sign that the journey is doomed.

Similarly, those who understand failure’s relationship to success see failure as feedback and adjust their efforts accordingly. Those that don’t, fear failure and avoid it altogether — thus deceiving themselves into inadvertently becoming their own biggest obstacle to success.

It’s no wonder Michael Jordan famously said, “I can accept failure. I can’t accept not trying.”

The worst thing about losing is not learning from it. Failure is a permanent state only when we don’t see the lesson in it.I have long believed that worst thing about losing is not learning from it. Failure is a permanent state only when we don’t see the lesson in it. Therefore, I believe that most of us really do need to learn how to fail in basketball — and in life for that matter — hence the title of this article.

In reality, failure is merely one of the natural byproducts of effort, consequently it is quite common for successful people to experience failure on an regular basis as they reach for their goals. Achievers don’t fear failure nearly as much as they love succeeding, so they give it a shot, even if they might miss wildly. And why not?

It’s as the great philosopher, Wayne Gretzky, once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Failure is not a fatal disease.

Self-deception, however, can be.

Watch the following video, then move on to part 2a: Self-Deception: Success’s TRUE Nemesis.

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