Who Needs Success When You Have the Right Mindset on Failure?
The 2016 NCAA basketball championship game didn’t turn out as I had hoped. My Carolina Tar Heels lost and I was sad. My heart broke for the players, especially the seniors, as tears welled up in their eyes immediately after the buzzer went off and they realized the game was no longer tied when their opponents made a 3-point shot in the last second of the game. I woke up the next morning hoping it had all been a bad dream, but it wasn’t.
And it also wasn’t a failure for Carolina, despite the fact that our society thinks losers are failures. Do 4.7 seconds and 3 points take away all the previous successes Carolina had that season? Does it strip them of their regular season championship and their conference championship? Does it erase all 62 wins against the other teams in the tournament to get them to the national championship game? No.
In working with my clients, I often have them share with me their greatest accomplishments. And then I have them share with me their greatest failures, along with the redemptive perspective of each failure. The redemptive perspective is the good thing (or things) that came out of their failures. That’s what we focus on, because those are successes. It’s taking failure, and redefining it as something else: a learning experience, a blessing in disguise, a newly developed skill, or maybe even a “dodged bullet.”
When we approach failure in this way, it is no longer something to be feared, but something to be embraced. Life would be pretty boring if we didn’t experience both success and failure. We’d be walking around steeped in pride without any real wisdom.
Failure = Success
I know after the hurt and disappointment subsided, the players of the 2015–2016 Carolina team could look back on their loss and see its redemptive perspective, remembering the words of their predecessor, Carolina basketball legend Michael Jordan:
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 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.”
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