Sunday, December 22, 2013

Why Failure = Excellence.

Good day, fellow castaways. I pray this Holy-Day season finds you well. The Keith Household wishes every one and all of you a Merry Christmas, and a joyous and prosperous New Year.

I felt it appropriate this week to expand on the theme of excellence, because so many people seem to have a wrong idea on what "excellence" is. So I'll talk about what it means to me, and if it touches some of the same nerves in you, then we're all a little closer to knowing each other.

Let's revisit the little league pitcher from last week's post. Kid had awesome hot talent. That I will not argue; it's evident in the way he shuts down whole teams' batting lineups. But instead of studying him and making their kids learn to hit him, the league decided to disband his team.

The argument was that they didn't want their kids to have to face failure over and over against him, and it would damage their self esteem.

I get it. Failure sucks. I tried out for little league when I was seven years old. Man, I was eager to get going. I love baseball. I love everything about it, except the overpaid spoiled brats who have to wring every last penny from families who just want to have an afternoon at the ball park. But that another story. I love baseball, and I tried out.

Coach was on the mound (in the days before pitching machines), and he hucked a pumpkin up there to see what I'd do with it. For those of you not familiar, he tossed an easy pitch right over the plate for me. Well, as my biggest brother at the time was already popping home runs and taught me how to hit, I was ready for it. I laid into that ball like a cheap rug, sending a pretty hot grounder between first and second base. I take off down the line to First Base as hard as I can. Second baseman (an older kid on the team) scoops the ball up and rifles it over to the first baseman just before I got there. The ump calls me out. That's it. I'm out. I failed. I couldn't stand the humiliation of all those boys looking at me, watching me fail. So I took my mitt and left the field in tears. The coaches called me to come back, but I couldn't go back there and fail again.

True story, it happened exactly that way. I missed out on playing team baseball because I couldn't handle failure. Poor me. My mother tried to talk me into going back to they tryouts, and eventually I did, but by that time tryouts were over. The field was empty. My chance was gone. Mom should have gabbed me by the ear and dragged my keister back to that ball diamond and made me try again right away. My life could have turned out different.

Failure is a part of life, and I might suggest is the largest part of excellence. Everyone here has been 'round and 'round the mulberry bush about Thomas Edison. You know, the guy who invented the electric light bulb, and other such awesome things. He said the key to his success was the thousands of failures he encountered in his search for the right combination of wire, glass, etc.

When someone asked him about all those goofs, he said, "What failures? I just discovered a thousand ways not to make a light bulb before I discovered the way to make one." Or words to that effect. Feel free to look it up.

Life is full of frustration, failures, mistakes, humiliation and scorn. Just watch the news. But life is also full of celebration, success, honor and pride of accomplishment. And it's nothing to celebrate if it isn't preceded by someone pouring their blood, sweat and tears into their dream, and failing time and again only to try one more time and get it right.

What if we gave up the first time we tried to walk, and fell on our padded little bums? Hell, let's all just crawl around on all fours. Falling hurts, and we wouldn't want to pick up any bruises. That might affect our self-esteem.

That's why "participation trophies" make me sick. It may seem cruel to make kids suffer through losing. Good gravy, I know what it's like. And yes, some kids are more sensitive than others, and they most certainly will  be crushed if they don't get that first base hit. But guys, let's remember the pros in baseball only make it only about a third of the time, and that's the better hitters.

Excellence is NOT winning all the time. In fact, if anything, excellence is losing, trying again, losing some more, trying again, getting bashed in the face, trying again and wiping the blood from your nose, trying again... You get the picture.

Excellence is staring failure in the face and daring to try one more time. One more submission. One more lap around the track. One more pitch. One more step.

Excellence isn't in our wins. Excellence is in our failures. Winning is just the end result when we don't quit.

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