Failure occurs every single day of my life. I have gotten used to it. Fails can range from something as innocuous as falling off of a swing (and inevitably having my friend Paige capture the moment on camera) to failing to go through my entire callback list or emails at the end of a long day to having an outpatient treatment plan I designed for a patient fail.
Quote #46 in my list of memorable quotes on my computer is “Before you succeed, you must first learn to fail.” Michael Jordan famously told this to Shaquille O’Neal when he and the Chicago Bulls swept Shaq and the Orlando Magic in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals. Ever since hearing the story of how MJ pulled the younger Shaq to the side after the game to teach him the lesson, I had always thought that it was his way of schooling the younger player. Of course, Shaq would also later go on to become one of the most dominant players in the history of the NBA, and it makes sense that failure earlier on in his professional career could serve as motivation to strive toward success.
While this is quite possibly what MJ was alluding to when he shared the quote with Shaq, what I did not realize until very recently while watching “The Last Dance” documentary is that the Bulls had lost to the Magic the year prior in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. After learning more about MJ’s back story and his return to basketball from retirement and all of the personal and professional challenges he faced, I have since begun to look at this quote in a new light and think that he may have actually been referencing himself and his own past failure.
This concept is translatable off the basketball court and applies to all facets of life. It helps drive me when I encounter failure in my personal life or in the clinic. Being able to learn from mistakes while not being too hard on oneself is such a beautiful skill and one that requires a lot of practice.