Winners' Wisdom--Failing Forward to Success

Written by Jim Stovall

The only time failure is final is when we quit trying to succeed.  What would you call a basketball player who missed 9,000 shots, lost almost 300 games, and on two dozen occasions when he was called upon to shoot the winning basket, he missed?  You might call him a failure or a loser, but the world knows him as Michael Jordan—arguably the best basketball player of all time.

Temporary failure is a part of all success.  Winston Churchill was fond of repeating that, “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”  Great basketball players, including Michael Jordan, know that they are going to miss approximately half of their shots.  This never keeps them from doing their best and anticipating the next shot. 

For most people the most dramatic part of any basketball game is known as the “buzzer beater.”  This is when a player launches a last-second shot when the game is hanging in the balance.  If the ball goes into the basket, his team wins; and if it doesn’t, they lose.  I remember talking to my friend and mentor, the late, great legendary Coach John Wooden, and discussing the kind of players he wanted to recruit to play on his championship teams.  Obviously, he wanted great athletes with the size, speed, and skill to compete at the highest level; but Coach Wooden was much more interested in the mental qualifications of a prospect.  He pointed out that the best athletes don’t always win.  When I inquired about how he would determine whether a prospect was mentally suited to be a champion, Coach Wooden told me he was looking to recruit players who wanted to take that last-second shot.

A lot of great athletes compete aggressively throughout the game but shy away from taking the last shot.  They simply don’t want to deal with the pressure.  Players like Michael Jordan realize that pressure is a part of the game and a part of life.  It’s simply a matter of who is best qualified to take the shot and being willing to live with the results. 

In reality, any shot during a ballgame could be considered the winning or losing basket.  It’s just that the last shot holds a place in the spotlight.  Any single basket during the entire game could have made the final shot irrelevant, so it’s important for us to learn that everything we do matters—not just the last-second things we do before the deadline.  If we perform at the highest level in our personal and professional lives, we will avoid many deadlines and high-pressure situations; but when we’re called upon to take the final shot, we will step up and do what needs to be done knowing that sometimes we’ll win and sometimes we’ll lose, but there will always be another game tomorrow.

I heard a great baseball coach explain that the most important characteristic of a great pitcher is to have a short memory.  If a pitcher can give up a homerun, put it behind him, and bear down in order to get out the next batter, he will eventually succeed.  Success always looks like a series of victories with the inevitable defeats sprinkled among them. 

As you go through your day today, remember that failure isn’t final unless you give up.

Today’s the day! 


Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift.  He is also a columnist and motivational speaker.  He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK  74145-9082; by email at Jim@JimStovall.com; on Twitter at www.twitter.com/stovallauthor; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor.