When you embrace failure you give yourself a chance to do great things, and this way of thinking applies in all aspects of one’s life: social, personal and professional. “You have to give yourself a chance to fail.” That’s what Kenny “The Jet” Smith said during an NCAA college basketball tournament, about a star player who started out cold and as a result attempted too few shots in a game his team lost. Failure isn’t anyone’s goal, of course, but rather an inescapable potential consequence of trying to do really well.
I played basketball at West Muskingum High School in Zanesville and I was on the varsity my junior and senior year. The two years I played were a great contrast to my experiences in L.A. in that I was in my head/box and the results showed.
My senior year I averaged 3 points a game and a couple of rebounds, I did very little to help the team. I remember being on the floor and very conscious of who was watching me, how I looked and in my head/box I would analyze myself and my actions. By being in my head/ box I restricted myself and crippled my chances of performing up to my full capabilities.
For example, when I got on the court and made a mistake I would look right over at my coach and wait for his judgment. A lot of times that meant coming out of the game. I was so tight, rigid and in my head when I was playing.
Judgment was all around me. I was judging and analyzing myself up and down the court throughout the game thinking how I could have made a better pass, got more rebounds, scored more points and played better defense and the more. I also felt that my coach was doing the same (here I was making an assumption which is what we do when we are in our heads) and that is why every time I messed up in the game I was worried about coming out. The funny thing was it came true. When I messed up I usually came out of the game and returned to the bench.
It wasn’t fun playing basketball, it was miserable for me. Being in my head/box and having poor results on the court by not playing up to my full capabilities is a feeling I hope I never experience again in my life.
I didn’t embrace failure as I did in L.A. and that made me a failure on the court. I might be exaggerating the point I wasn’t a complete failure on the court, but it’s interesting that when I was in my head/box during those two years of playing basketball my biggest fear was making mistakes and failing. It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy that came true in that my results were average at best and the areas I failed in were not helping the team.
It’s interesting comparing my experience in L.A. with my playing days at West Muskingum. In L.A. I encouraged mistakes, removed judgment and had the time of my life. Tension, stress, being self-critical were all removed and I was able to be confident and in control. While at West I dreaded making mistakes, judged myself constantly and was miserable. More importantly, being in my head/box caused me to not perform up to my full ability.
A coach I have a lot of respect for is Pete Carroll. Pete talks about his players “Playing Fast” which means they are in the moment, reacting and not thinking about making mistakes or being wrong. When he coached at USC I loved watching his teams prepare for games and the confidence and bravado they displayed.
I remember before the Notre Dame game it was raining and his team was on a slip N slide having fun before the game started. While you could look across the sideline and see Notre Dame players going through the traditional pre-game rituals that included stretching, and doing light wind sprints. To a fan, seeing USC players horsing around, one must of thought Pete Carroll was crazy, but rather just the opposite. His “Play Fast” slogan included being loose before a game so one could perform up to his true ability. And USC won this game if you are wondering.
Watching his teams play no one would question his teams tenacity, toughness or attention to details. Pete Carroll embraced being wrong with his team and his results include seven Pac Ten Championships and two national titles to go along with a Super Bowl victory at the Seattle Seahawks. The results speak for themselves when we are talking about performing loose and playing up to one’s ability.
My goal as a speaker and writer is to allow individuals and groups to embrace failure and “Play Fast” at their career. I believe performing up to one’s potential can be applied in all settings: social, personal and professional. One of the four walls I mention is perfectionism and only by breaking down this wall can one perform up to his or her true ability.