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5 Things MJ Teaches Us About Failure

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan

This week I borrow from the wisdom of perhaps the greatest basketball player that has played the game, Michael Jordan. Growing-up I was a huge, huge MJ fan. In 1997, while I was living in New York, my buddy and I scrapped and saved enough cash to see His Airness play all the way in Chicago against our very own hometown NY Knicks, their hated Eastern Conference rivals. It was a once in a lifetime pilgrimage for me to see him play. While I wasn’t disappointed in the spectacle, he was.
What MJ’s quote reminded me of is the fact that that night, despite him scoring 50 points, the last game of the regular season, attempting to make the Chicago Bulls the only team in history to win 70 games in back-to-back seasons (82 regular season games): he lost the game. I could only imagine his anguish to lose at home, just shy of an NBA team record for excellence,…to the Knicks no less. But what he did do after that stinging loss was to lead the Bulls to back-to-back championships.
Failure is not unique. What is unique is how we turn those experiences into life’s valuable lessons for success…hence some very basketbally analogies gleaned from our on the court hero, Michael Jordan:
Got to Be In the Game to Fail. You have to be present, active, and engaged in your life, your career, or your relationships to begin with. Being a drop-out or whiner on the sidelines doesn’t give you the opportunity to learn from experience. So if you’re coasting in your job, just doing the minimum, you’re going be warming the bench watching others hustle to succeed. And in life, as in basketball, you can get “in the game” by being really great at some skill or honing a talent, such as sales, product knowledge, or leadership. So make it a point to be great at something.

Have the Courage to Keep Shooting. Persistence is a hallmark of successful people. Harland David Sanders, otherwise known as Colonel Sanders of KFC, started peddling his secret recipe for fried chicken at 65 and was rejected 1,009 times by restaurants before one agreed to sell his chicken. He spent two years of constant rejection, traveling around America in a beat-up car, before he heard his first ‘yes.’ Every ‘no’ he heard helped him refine his pitch, but more importantly, he didn’t give-up.

Build Trust In Your Team. Life is a team sport, learn to play with the players. Doing what you say you will do builds trust in others. Integrity is like a bank, in that when your actions are congruent with your words, deposits are made to your account that over time yields trust from others. Without trusting you first, others might not be there to help, to support, or even to give you the opportunity to succeed or to fail in the game.

Allow Failure to Fuel Your Desire to Succeed. Take persistence one step further and use the experience to ignite a desire to always to better. It helps if you have a vision for your future and for concrete goals. A failure or loss can be that battle cry to get you to the next level so you never have to look back again. It can be MJ losing game 70 or “hot dog-ade”; the rallying cry of success is not wanting to repeat failure.

Believe In Yourself. The great athletes, teams, and entrepreneurs believe in themselves, their teammates, or their products. Success is really only that which is earned through hard work and indeed, overcoming failure. And success need not be monetary; earning respect, for example, can take much longer, be much tougher, and be harder to keep than just earning money. Recognizing failures can help you see where you made error in judgments or mistakes; but true success is realizing that you are not defined by these experiences, rather you are shaped by them for the better.

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