“We have been taught to believe that negative equals realistic and positive equals unrealistic.” —Susan Jeffers
Wouldn’t it be enlightening to gather statistics on how many people have given up on dreams because someone told them their aspirations were unrealistic? How many hockey players have hung up their skates because a coach told them the National Hockey League was a long-shot? How many entrepreneurs have stopped seeking investors after being told their ideas would never sell? How many writers have filed stories in drawers after reading dire statistics about the state of the publishing business? How many people have given up because they’ve been told that “NO” equals sensible, but “YES” equals dreamland.
More importantly, how many people equate failure with negativity?
Henry Ford didn’t see failure as negative. On a recent trip to Michigan, I took this picture during our visit to the Henry Ford Museum. (Side note: Please visit the museum, if you have the chance. It’s about much more than cars; it’s about life.)
“I would rather build a big plane and learn something, even if it didn’t fly, than to build a smaller one that worked perfectly and not learn anything.” —Henry Ford
Henry Ford would rather try something unrealistic and fail positively than try something realistic and succeed negatively.
Mind-twisting, isn’t it?
Sharpen those skates, dust off that business plan, pull the stories out of the drawer: Dreamland is a fun place to live, and failure is useful too.
One of the things I love most about baseball is what it teaches about the dangers of perfectionism.
To be considered a very good hitter in baseball, a player carries a batting average of .300 or higher. One out of every three times he goes to bat, he gets a hit. And two out of every three times, he fails.
Ty Cobb holds the record for the highest all-time batting average at .366. The best hitter in the history of baseball failed at the plate almost two-thirds of the time.
How do you feel when two-thirds of your endeavours fail? Do you label yourself a loser and give up? Baseball teaches perseverance and big-picture thinking that dilute the poison of perfectionism. Baseball teaches that occasional miscalculated swings, short strides, or lapses in good judgement do not define a person: a body of work does.
If the professional baseball players of today had bought into the myth of perfectionism when they grounded out to first base as Little Leaguers, then we wouldn’t be able to watch people like the 2011 American League Home Run Leader, José Bautista, blast another homer out of the park. (Career average .254. He has failed at the plate three-quarters of the time.) Or see how the 2011 American League Batting Champion, Miguel Cabrera, magically gets himself on base again. (Career average .317. He has failed at the plate two-thirds of the time.)
Lessons for everyday people live in this beautiful aspect of baseball. If we carry a .300 average for our parental decisions, encounters with a person in need, or negotiations with neighbours , we are probably doing all right.
After all, there’s nothing to be gained from hanging up the cleats and never stepping up to the plate again.
She’s funny. She’s inspirational. She’s well worth watching.
One of the richest and most successful authors in the world tells us how failure helps to shape success.<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/1711302″>J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/harvard”>Harvard Magazine</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
To read the full text of her comments, go to Harvard Magazine: