Numbers

If you were to interview a number of people about why they won’t try to do something difficult, or something they’ve never done before I suspect the answers might look something like this:

“What if I try to do this and fail?  Then I’ll look like a fool.”

or

“I don’t want to do anything that would embarrass me”

or

“I’ve never done this before so how can I know I can do it?”

Valid questions, no?  But, there is a flaw in this thinking.  It assumes that ‘winners’ (that is, people who seem to come up winners in whatever they do) always succeed.  It assumes that failures are bad.

As most of you may know, I’m not a sports fan.  However, there are a few things about sports that interest me – Numbers is one.

We talk about baseball hitters, and how that batting 300 is good.  But, that means most of the time (70%) they fail.

We talk about how good Tiger is in the golfing game.  But, if Tiger was perfect wouldn’t he make a hole-in-one on every hole?

Ok, let’s talk about truth… Winners in sports, as in other parts of life, win because of several things:

  1. They keep practicing
  2. Even if they fail, they don’t stop, but keep going
  3. They don’t worry too much about what other people think, they focus on perfecting their game
  4. They are gifted, but they realize that is not enough.  They must constantly apply themselves.
  5. They are committed to their goal
  6. They don’t focus on their failures, except to learn lessons from it

Isn’t this interesting?  Because we could be talking about most anything, not just sports.  A teacher focuses on teaching better each time.  A preacher focuses on delivering a message better with each message.  A plumber focuses on doing a better and more professional job with each job.

But, this doesn’t always happen does it?

Why?  Well, there could be a number of reasons, but I think one might be, “It’s just too hard.”  But, this could be phrased differently.  How about, “It’s just too hard, and I’m too lazy.”

We use excuses to justify our lack of courage.  For it takes courage to do something new, or something where we might fail.  When we look at ‘winners’ we should understand they didn’t start out as winners.

Another thought for you to ponder….

We are not qualified in most cases to determine whether an activity was a failure or success.  We think we know a failure from success, but I’m convinced we are frequently deceived.  We judge success and failure along the same lines we judge right and wrong, and with about as much accuracy.  We assume if something feels ‘right’ it is right, and we think if something feels ‘bad’ it must be wrong.  But, these are poor indicators.  Just like judging success and failure.  We believe if we do not attain our goal we are a failure, but in most cases that is inaccurate, and may be entirely wrong.

I remember my oldest son coming to me in his sophomore year in high school.  He said, “Dad, I think if I eliminate many of my elective courses and do some summer classes I may be able to graduate from High School in three years versus four years.”  Of course, we were dubious, but he had a plan, and after some consideration his Mom and I said, “Well, go for it!”  Things went along and he worked hard, and it was getting down to the wire on time and it was uncertain if he would walk across the stage a year early.  And, yes, wouldn’t you know it, he came up 1/2 credit short of the credits needed to graduate.  He was devastated, and we were disappointed with him.  He did finish his classes and graduated the following year with his normal classmates.  Now, here is the real question — Is this a failure?  I say, ‘No’, certainly not.  Even though he did not achieve the goal he set out for himself, he achieved a great deal, and more important was not afraid to give it a try when others took the ‘safe path’.  Although this occurred many years ago, I am still proud of my son for taking on this challenge in his life and doing so well with it.

Why this story?  Because I think it illustrates quite clearly we have great difficulty in determining success and failure, especially when we judge it by how it looks or feels.

Many successful businessmen and women don’t like to share or discuss their failures, but rest assured they are there.  No one succeeds all the time.  But, what they do is learn from their mistakes, and move on, not focusing on failure, but on the successes.

One Response to “Numbers”

  1. Bea McGuire Says:

    I loved this blog and found myself admiring your son for his effort even before I read the final outcome! So…the lesson was in the end he never did fail! Excellent blog. Blessings…

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