Michael Jordan is arguably the best basketball player in history. At the height of his fame he was known in every remote corner of the world, and he raked in hundreds of millions in endorsement money. Yet I think one of his quotes has impressed me more than any of those statistics. Jordan was unafraid of failure – yet, by his own admission, he failed again and again and again.
“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
When most people speak of goals, they speak of positive goals. It is much better to have a goal stated as “I will lose 10 pounds” rather than “I will deny myself food and burn more calories than I take in for several miserable weeks.” Jordan really got to the heart of the matter. He never let the last missed shot affect his concentration on the next one. He was willing to take the chance, willing to fail.
If you have played sports of any sort, you know this is no small achievement. I played tennis and I raged at myself after every botched return or double-fault. I didn’t understand that failing is part of succeeding. I thought that a failure was a shortcoming. I never learned to analyze my failures and turn them into strengths. Rather than analyzing a botched backhand to reconsider my approach to the net, I cursed my racket. When I missed the game winning shot I raged. Jordan forgot and moved on, which is one reason (among thousands) that he is an internationally-known sports legend and I am not.
I think of this quote in terms of personal finance. I make mistakes in personal finance. I make a bad investment, or a foolish purchase or miss an opportunity for additional income. Yet the only way that’s truly a failure is if I don’t build on it, understand why it happened and use that knowledge to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Jordan knew this, and that’s why he succeeded.