This commercial is one of my all-time favorites. It’s a simple voiceover with footage of Michael Jordan missing shots, messing up, and blowing it. He recounts several statistics before closing with:
“I’ve failed over, and over, and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
There is something beautiful about one of the best basketball players of all time attributing his monumental success to his many failures. I also love that he mentions the “26 times” he’s been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed, but doesn’t mention how many times he’s succeeded (I wonder which number is greater).
Surely, Jordan’s success is attributable to other things as well – talent, hard work, great coaching, and I’m sure others. However, this embodiment of the “go big or go home” mentality certainly speaks to Jordan’s willingness to engage with failure, to put himself in situations where success or failure has big consequences, and also to his bravery in the face of difficulty. Engaging with failure, or even the risk of failure, over time has the effect of making us more comfortable with the idea. If we feel brave or empowered in situations where failure is possible, then the fear of failure becomes less of an obstacle. The more we face our fear of failure, the less power failure has over us.
Perhaps Jordan’s early engagement with failure allowed him to develop a partial immunity to its effects. By engaging with failure in ways that are manageable for us, we inoculate ourselves to the effects, allowing us to grow into situations where the failure is more intimidating.