Learning from Michael Jordan: on success and failure

I have been struggling with that which matters most to me in this life:  my family.

  • Do I care for my wife and children? Yes.
  • Do I want to see my wife and children smiling? Yes.
  • Do I want to give hugs and receive hugs – every day – from my wife and children? Yes.
  • Do I want to just sit and chat with my wife and children?  Yes.
  • Do I want to offer acceptance and validation to my wife and children? Yes.

How am I getting on with all of that?  Badly: I fall down flat on my face often, in fact more than I succeed.  And in the process I have been tempted to give in and there have been times I have given up – at least temporarily.

Recently, I had a big setback and was tempted to give up completely: to accept that fine words are fine and reality is something else.  Just when I was at my lowest the world delivered the following into my lap.  Here is a quote from Michael Jordan:

“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 game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Michael has a point, we cleave failure and success into two.  Yet, it is possible to look at failure and success as being interdependent.  The key to success is to be on the court (of life) rather than on the stands (as a spectator).  And to use our intelligence to adjust what we do in response to the feedback we get from the world.  To use a tennis analogy, if you are at the back of the court and the opponent keeps hitting winners at the net then it makes sense to move into the net.

Finally, it strikes me that we can choose to look at failure as the first sign that we have taken on a bigger game in life.  We have chosen to go beyond our comfort zone – to expand our boundaries.  And in that we can rejoice.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.

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