Best Advice: Down But Not Out

I’m sitting in floor seats at one of my Golden State Warriors basketball games late last season after I had also recently become an owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers professional baseball team and it was about 9 pm at night. The team was behind 2 points in the closing minutes of the game. I grimaced and held my fists to my eyes as one of our key players missed two crucial foul shots in a row. The game continued in a bit of a downhill spiral for another minute or so.

Suddenly, I was pinged on my Smartphone and it was Pat Riley, the President of the Miami Heat. He happened to be watching our game from his bedroom at home in Miami around midnight. He exhorted, “don’t do that! Losing is part of the game! Listen to these statistics… you play 82 regular season basketball games, maybe some playoffs…and maybe 164 baseball games, and maybe a bunch post season games for as much as 270 games a year. You are going to lose a lot! A lot! Get used to it! It’s a crucial part of the process! That behavior doesn’t help you or your team. You’ve got to always remain visibly positive! Managing losses is a challenge you must be up to! You can never give in to it!”

Winning is as much about attitude as aptitude especially when the chips are down.

Winning is as much about attitude as aptitude especially when the chips are down. Pat’s advice became key to me. Leadership is about providing inspiration to your team, not just perspiration. It’s about recognizing that winning and losing are often very close together. You as a leader must recognize that success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. That’s when your leadership is most needed.

Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest NBA player of all time, credits his attitude about failure as a critical driver behind his enormous success. Having recently celebrated his 50th birthday at the All Star game, I am reminded of a quote he once made that elegantly punctuates this process:

“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

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