One of the biggest fear of any human being is failure. Failure is tied around one’s neck like an albatross. People have fallen into the dangerous state of trying only those activities that they are good at and are certain to win at. For the fear of being branded a failure, many people stick to proven ways, instead of experimenting and innovating. Another culprit holding off people from trying is the fixed mindset. As opposed to the growth mindset where effort is acknowledged, fixed mindset dictates that a person is limited by their talent. In the recent times, Michael Jordan has been an inspiration for many other super stars. He demystified his success and chalked it to his failure. This revelation empowers all at any level of performance or achievement to forge ahead with persistence.
Michael Jordan – A Champion of Failure
“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.” said Michael Jordan.
This famous quote shows that you must play many games to win many games. It also shows Jordan’s authenticity. According to Warren Bennis, ‘the dean of leadership gurus’, leaders are not born – they are made. By sharing the not naturally talented side of his, Jordan has not only shared his vulnerability which forms bonds of trust easily but also has made an authentic leader of himself.
Jordan played his games intensely and went beyond people’s expectations each time. He disliked losing in a game. He had the competitive spirit as well as the belief in his athletic skills. He loved winning and had the belief that the victory is certain with practice. Jordan performed excellently as an individual player. In later years, under Phil Jackson’s coaching, Jordan was able ‘to surrender the me for the we’ and became a good team player (Stallard 2015).
Leaders win by using their strength and superiority of skill. Henry V addressing on St Crispin’s day of the honor in fighting the battle of AginCourt. “But if it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive.” (Shakespeare, 1623). Leaders have a sense of pride about their involvement. There is also an overriding sense of victory at the outset itself.
There is a sort of prescience that the better state is possible. A Leader’s confidence and optimism energize the crew. During the battle of Ivry, Henry IV addressed his troops: “My friends, yonder is the enemy, here is your king; and God is on our side. If you lose your standards, rally round my white plume; you will always find it in the path of honor and victory.” (Clare, Modern History). In this battle, Duke of Mayenne had double the troops of Henry IV. Henry V defeated the French troops, even though they were outnumbered by 5:1. Even in bad shape, Henry was certain that he would win and that men would show off their battle wounds every St Crispin day.
Leaders are successful in rallying the support for their cause. When the cause is just and they believe that they have divine support too, then people know that they are going to succeed. With so much certainty of success, against all odds, hardly there is a thought of fear. The people only think about how to give a better fight. Bates says, “But I do not desire he should answer for me; and yet I determine to fight lustily for him.” (Shakespeare, 1623)
With the leader’s support, the followers move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. a concept introduced by Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck in her book Mindset. Dweck has suggested that is the belief in talent and fixed mindset that gave the world Enron (Dweck 2006).
Regarding the effect on the mind of exclusive devotion to gymnastic, Socrates said that it produces a temper of hardness and ferocity (Plato). Adeimantus too concedes that a mere athlete becomes a savage. Jordan knew how to fashion himself a leader through his athleticism instead of being limited by it.
Another example. Jesse Owens was considered the greatest athlete in the world. Jesse said that he always loved running because it was something ’you could do all by yourself, all under your own power’. Jesses’s inspiration was Booker T Washington. He even wished to become a bit like the founder of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
“In America, anyone can become somebody. Does that sound corny in this day and age? Well, it happened to me, and I believe it can happen to anybody in one way or another” said Jesse owens.
Jesse Owens and Michael Jordan’s are examples to try, try and try until you succeed just like King Bruce.
Unlike the optimistic leaders, Richard II lost his hope before the throne. He had shirked his duties of taking care of England and lost himself in warring with the Irish at the expense of just behavior. Richard II was a victim of his times, where a ‘successful leader’ in Elizabethan terms cannot afford to get too ‘hung up on moral principles’ (Forker, 2001). Henry IV too became a victim of it as he was too guilty towards the end.
Michael Jordan with his insistence on hardwork and continuous improvement is a great inspiration for a person in any field. Jordan’s lessons and success foster a growth mindset where the outcomes depend on effort and not just inherent talent. Like Henry V and Michael Jordan, when one takes pride in their mission and continues to fight, that increases their chance of success.
Shakespeare Williams, 1623, Henry V
Plato, Reoublic Book IV
Forker Charles, 2001 Richard II: Shakespeare: The Critical tradition, Volume 9
Clare Israel Smith, Modern History
Mcclean Bethany, 2015 https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/12/martin-shkreli-pharmaceuticals-ceo-interview
Stallard, Michael Lee, 2015