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
Michael Jordan is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. It was always fun to watch him step onto the court, get into the game, and work what seemed to be some kind of magic. He had an ability to make things happen that, at times, seemed to defy the laws to which mortals are bound. He had an undeniable greatness about him, and that is why I am so impressed by his statement on failure and success.
When the name “Michael Jordan” is said, most will think of success and not failure. And when his failures are brought up, most will brush them aside and refocus on his accomplishments. However, when someone else who has not enjoyed as many successes has a temporary setback, our human nature seems to be more critical of that setback simply because she or he is not as successful. Indeed, many of us are likely guilty of judging one another (or ourselves!) too harshly and assuming a less than ideal motive.
For example, I take my car to have the muffler and exhaust system repaired. A year later, the entire exhaust pipe falls off. Of course the mechanic “messed something up” or “cut a corner” and that is why the repair did not last. It had nothing to do with the fact that my car is 16 years old and held together mainly by duct tape and bailing wire.
We all want perfection in the services and products that we receive and consume. When something falls short, we are often critical of the individual or company that provided the service or product. And yet, how often do we require the same level of perfection from ourselves? And how do we strive for a standard of perfection while living with the imperfection within and around each and every one of us?
One of the principles that I am trying to instill in each of my children is that it matters more where they are headed than where they have been. While our experiences are important, they do not determine our course. Early in my career a mentor taught me that two employees, each with 20 years of experience, could be vastly different. “One,” he said, “may have had twenty years of experience while the other has experienced the same year 20 times.”
The difference is growth. We become better – our skills increase. And as our skills increase we are better able to chart a course of becoming better. You may want to be a better parent. You may want to be in better health. You may want to contribute more to your community. Whatever your direction, you will fail. And you will learn. And then you can become better – more adept at identifying needs in others, more capable of providing labor to those who would benefit from it, more able to find peace in who you are while striving to become who you want you want to be.
Let us assume the best of others and of ourselves as we work toward becoming what C.S. Lewis called “everlasting splendors”.