Michael Jordan & the Key to Overcoming Failure

When you remember sports stars of yesteryear, you probably remember their finest moments. Babe Ruth is famous for hitting 714 home runs in his career, and few people remember that he also struck out 1330 times, almost twice as often.

I guess the moral of the story is that if you want to hit a lot of home runs in life, you can’t be afraid to strikeout from time to time. If Babe Ruth had spent time thinking about his strike outs, he would have become too discouraged to be the great ballplayer that he was.

Basketball great Michael Jordan said on a TV commercial toward the end of his NBA career: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost more than 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.”

Should we consider Michael Jordan a failure at basketball because he missed a lot of shots and lost a lot of games? Of course not. Yet missing the winning shot in a big game would have sent some players into a tailspin. They might have gone into a slump for several games, unable to shake the memory of their failure. But not Michael. He learned to start each game with a clean slate.

Michael Jordan had actually learned to overcome failure several years before starting his career in the NBA. In 1978 he was cut from the basketball team at Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina. Instead of giving up, he worked hard to improve his game. He made the team the following year, and by 1985 he was the NBA rookie of the year.

No one ever became a great success in life without also experiencing some failure along the way. The person who’s intent on never making a mistake has probably never made much of anything.

The key is your ability to shake it off and bounce back. You have to forget about that last shot that you missed.

In my mid-20s I went on a date with a girl and ended up telling her my life story. “You sure have failed a lot!” she told me after a while.

Well, I’ve failed many more times in the years since then.

However, when I examine the lives of the Biblical heroes in the Hall of Fame of Faith in Hebrews 11, I see plenty of failure before their ultimate triumphs. And I love the apostle Paul’s conclusion in Philippians 3:13-14: “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

I guess we all need some “selective amnesia” as we age. We have to forget about the strikeouts and missed buzzer-beaters and focus on the great opportunities ahead. Let’s keep swinging for the fences. Let’s keep shooting, particularly after we’ve missed our last shot.

One thought on “Michael Jordan & the Key to Overcoming Failure

  1. Alright Jim, I want to know one thing: What happened to the girl who listened to your life story and made that comment?

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