Michael Jordan and the Fear of Failure
December 14, 2010 by duffgibson
In any contest there is a winner and a loser and almost anyone would tell you that winning is a lot more fun. But in many ways losing is more valuable in the long run as it helps to define us. When we lose in sport, we learn much more about ourselves, our weaknesses, and how we might improve for the next time. Setbacks, obstacles and outright failures force us to make decisions as to how seriously we want to pursue a goal, and how we’re going to make it happen.
In sport there are a great number of champion athletes who faced setbacks and later acknowledged these failures as very significant to their ultimate success. Michael Jordan for example was cut from his high school basketball team in grade 10. He refers to this event as being integral to his development as it taught him that he could bring about a significant change in his ability through hard work. A lot of that has to do with his reaction to being cut in the first place. In other words he chose to react positively, to work harder, to make himself better.
Experiencing failure can also be very valuable in the sense that one learns that life goes on and that failure is not something to be feared. In terms of being successful in a competitive environment, getting over the fear of failure is a very valuable skill. In fact, the higher the level of competition, the more important the skill becomes.
In the mid-90’s when the Chicago Bulls were in the midst of winning several NBA championships, Michael Jordan was in a commercial that reflected on the fact that failure is a part of what he did for a living. Have a look:
Keep in mind that this commercial was made before the end of Jordan’s career. In other words, the numbers he refers to where not career totals and when all was said and done the numbers were higher. To me, the most poignant stat referred to in the commercial was the missed game-winning shots. It’s an amazing thought that you could string together somewhere between a third and a half of a season worth of (NBA Champion) Chicago Bulls losses where they lost for no reason other than they gave the ball to the best player ever to step on a court and he just missed.
What’s the point? You can’t be afraid to try. And by all accounts when Jordan went for that game winning shot, the thought of missing was the furthest thing from his mind. And if you ask any sport psychologist, they’ll tell you that was one of Jordan’s greatest strengths.