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Fail Your Way To Success!

“I’ve missed more than 9000 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

With the start of the Little League season underway, I am reminded of one of life’s best teachers: failure. I played on the 1974 Golden Hill Little League baseball team called the Bears, and we went 0-20 for the season. We were the worst team in the league, and I was the grass-picking and butterfly-chasing right fielder. Right field in Little League is where the team hides their worst player, so in other words, I was the worst player on the worst team.

During my two years in junior high I ran for every office they offered: Vice President, President, and Secretary-Treasurer finishing with an 0-3 record. I kept my winless streak rolling by also getting cut from the basketball and flag-football team. I was trash-canned by the eighth graders and my Spanish teacher told me that my pronunciation was so bad that, “You’re a disgrace to the Spanish language.” Junior high was a character building time for sure!

In high school, I was cut from the baseball team, and academically finished in the bottom 30% of my class. I took a withdrawal on the first college course I ever attended. It was an Accounting 101 class and I was debiting credits and crediting debits and on the fast track to a career in the fast food industry before I asked for, and received, my unconditional release from the class.

During college, I flew to New York on my own dime to interview for an unpaid internship on the Late Night with David Letterman show. Not only was I rejected for an position where I would earn zero, they didn’t even bother to inform me that I didn’t get the internship. I waited day after day for a response until two weeks passed and I finally called them only to get a cavalier, “Oh yeah, you didn’t make the cut, sorry.”

I worked as a Century 21 real estate salesman for a couple of years in the mid-1980’s. I was 20 years old and looked about 15. I wore the gold jacket and walked my “farm” neighborhood passing out free notepads and trying to convince homeowners to trust me with the biggest investment of their life. Needless to say, I didn’t win the Salesman of the Year Awards. During my career as a Realtor, I sold a grand total of two properties… one to myself!

I’ve been fired from a job, lost substantial money investing in a start-up business, bombed at open mike stand-up comedy, and dropped out of an adult education guitar class after being unable to play “Tom Dooley” which is only two chords. I have an folder of rejection letters from agents, publishers, producers, and editors thick enough to keep an origami class busy for a semester. I failed at surfing, was a POW in every paintball battle I’ve ever been in, and pulled a groin riding a mechanical bull, and you know what? I wouldn’t change one single thing.

Now my kids are trying different sports and activities. I attended one of their karate classes and loved hearing the sensei repeatedly drill “seven times down, eight times up!” into their young brains. That phrase, reiterated over and over, was worth whatever I paid in tuition. It’s not about getting knocked down, it’s about getting up every time.

Failure and disappointment are great success motivators. I question the philosophy nowadays where all the kids gets a trophy, and nobody get cut from the team or the talent show. In the short term the kids’ feelings may be spared, and teachers and coaches don’t have to make tough choices, but in the longterm the kids miss out on an important life lesson.

Someone who I greatly admire, but haven’t gotten a chance to meet yet, is Sara Blakely. She is the inventor of the women’s undergarment called Spanx, and one of the youngest female self-made billionaires in the world. The reason I admire her is for the way that she embraces failure.

“I grew up in a house where my father encouraged my brother and me to fail. I specifically remember coming home and saying, ‘Dad, Dad, I tried out for this or that and I was horrible,’ and he would high-five me and say, ‘Way to go.’ Blakely said.

Without all of my failures, there would be no long list of bucket list accomplishments, so, Bucketlisters, I encourage you to get out there and fail your way to success!