Lessons from Baseball – Welcoming Failure

We’re in the thick of baseball playoffs for the 2009 season. Naturally, I am tuned in and following everything closely. I am going to playoff games on Saturday and Sunday. It’s supposed to be nasty weather, but what a treat! I can hardly wait! But I digress….

Jim Tracy, a strong contender for National League Manager of the Year, took over the Colorado Rockies Manager job at the end of May. The previous manager had been fired after a dismal start. The Rockies had only won 20 of their first 52 games. They were in last place in the National League West. Twelve games under .500 and disappointing everyone who said they were a good team coming out of Spring Training.

The Rockies finished the season 92 and 70 and won the National League Wild Card. After that sorry start, the Rockies won 72 of the remaining 110 games. They lost 32 of the first 52 games and only lost 38 of the final 110 games. Remarkable turnaround!

When sports reporters asked the Rockies skipper what he did to turn the team around, he said he told them not to be afraid to fail.

Anyone who follows baseball knows it is a humbling game. The best hitters are only successful 30% to 35% of the time. That means they fail 65% to 70% of the time. And that is the BEST hitters. The others don’t do as well. They have to live with failure every day. They have to put it out of their minds and go out the next day fresh. No dwelling on yesterday’s game.

Tracy understands that people who are afraid to fail won’t play fearlessly. They tense up, second guess themselves and don’t play “loose.” Players who are tense, afraid of making a mistake and dwelling on mistakes don’t do well. Players who play loose, going all out, not afraid to fail have more success. And the failures become teachers. They show us what does not work. They help us better define what we want by experiencing what we do not want.

This is true of life. Everyone learns more from failure than they do from success, whether we’re talking about career, relationships, household chores, etc. Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was too stupid to learn anything. He was fired from early jobs. He famously tried thousands of times to create an incandescent light bulb before achieving success. When asked by a reporter how it felt to fail 1,000 times, Edison said, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

Henry Ford went broke five times before achieving success. Walt Disney, Abraham Lincoln, H.J. Heinz and Milton Hershey (of chocolate fame) all went bankrupt before finding success. Donald Trump has been wildly successful, bankrupt and wildly successful again. I don’t mean to dwell on money, but in our culture, bankruptcy is a synonym for failure.

Don’t be afraid of failure! People who are afraid of failure will be too timid to achieve success. Stop worrying about how others might judge you if you fail. They do not matter in the scheme of things. Only your relationship with you matters.

Go for your dreams with gusto! Engage life fully. Be present (here and now) — like the baseball player. The shortstop cannot turn a tricky double play if he is dwelling on something else. Do your best. Welcome the “failures” as opportunities to learn what you really want and what does not work.

Life will unfold beautifully for you, and your successes will increase.

Copyright © 2009 by Victoria Young