Michael Jordan is one of the most celebrated athletes of all time. In his brief bio on NBA.com, he is described as “single handedly redefining the NBA superstar.” And yet, to get to this level of unmatched success, he has openly admitted to failing more times than most people.
Over the course of his career, Jordan has lost almost 300 games, missed over 9,000 shots – not to mention he was given the ball 26 times to take the game winning shot…and he missed.
Jordan goes on to say that the reason he has succeeded is as a result of his constant failure. His failure became the motivation for his success, every fall he encountered pushed him to unprecedented levels of play.
A lot of times we think we know what inspires us, or what brings us down. In our society, there’s a general misconception that someone else’s success can inspire us; or, we think that our own success will inspire us to more success. On the flip side, we see failure as a dirty word, a dead end that stops us rather than propels us forward. But, what if we’ve got it all wrong? What if everything that has ever happened, no matter how good or bad, was in our favor? What if every single thing that we have encountered during the course of our life was designed for us?
One thing I think we can all agree on is that as humans, unlike any other living thing, we are blessed with choice: the power to choose what we think, say and do. Choice informs perception and so with choice we hold the power over how we see the world around us. And, because perception is a matter of choice, this means that everything – e v e r y t h i n g – can be both inspiring and empowering if we choose to see it that way.
This means that we can experience failures, setbacks and adversity and we have a choice. We can use those events as a stopping sign, a place where we throw our hands up in the air and say, ‘Oh this just isn’t meant for me.’ But there’s another, less obvious choice. And it will always be the harder one to make. We can also view these same events as a birthplace for our yet to be seen success and we can trust that those failures are what will pave our way forward. The reality is, no matter the challenge, we are the single common denominator in every situation and we get to decide what power, if any, the event holds over us. Just like the Story of the Two Salesmen:
The Story of the Two Salesmen
Once, there were two salesmen who traveled to a third world country to do new business. When they arrived, the first called his wife and said, “Honey, I’m coming home. Nobody here wears shoes.” The second businessman also called his wife and he said, “Honey, you won’t believe what I’ve found. No one here is wearing shoes! I can sell to the whole country!”
While the situation is the same for the two businessmen, one becomes hopeless while the other is convinced that the situation is in his favor.
We could debate over which perception is “right” – whether the glass is half empty or half full – but I think a better question to ask is, “Which perception is more empowering and full of possibility?”
In life, there are the obvious good things: a surprise party thrown by your friends, an unexpected gift, recognition and praise for a job well done, or an amazing comeback by your favorite sports team. But, what about the everyday mundane things like a great song on the radio, the pastel painted sunset sky, a peaceful evening at home, or the calm and clarity of a quiet morning?
The more we can see that each thing that comes into our life is a gift from the Universe, the more we can trust, know and believe that life is always cheering us on. Those little nuggets of goodness, even in the seemingly difficult times, are the reminder that the Universe is rigged in our favor. The hard part is seeing them as gifts in the present moment.
From the perspective of the present, where we are now, our sight is limited. We can, however, always look back and see the lesson in retrospect. We can see how that dumb thing we did when we were younger, taught us not to do that dumb thing again. We can see how the pain and hurt we’ve experienced, while painful at the time, ultimately taught us some lesson about love or our enoughness. We can see how our disappointments, those things we couldn’t imagine making our way out of, allowed us to grow even stronger and opened the door for far greater things to enter our lives.
What if all the times we fell in the past, taught us how to fall down and how to get up again and again and again?
What if all the hurt we experienced from others is what allowed us to become more wise and loving?
What if running into these walls, while painful, are really good things at the end of the day?
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying we should be happy all the time. There are times and places for sadness and there’s power in honoring these moments, while not allowing them to define our reality.
Sometimes it might seem like things are moving backwards or that there is no way out, but from a bird’s eye view of life, there’s a direction to the Universe – and it’s always forward. Forward to learning. Forward towards growth. Forward towards maturity. Forward to a greater unfolding of who we are.
It’s something worth considering…maybe the Universe is rigged in our favor.