Babe Ruth hit more home runs than any other player in MLB history (714). He also struck out more than anyone else (1330).
The best hitters in baseball, with on base percentages around 40%, fail to succeed about 60% of the time.
The best basketball shooters fail to score on half their field goal attempts. The best long distance shooters fail 60% of the time.
If you use these benchmarks as standard for performance, you are faced with an interesting question:
How do you reconcile your self-image of potency, that is, a shooter of relentless prowess, a player who can get into the zone, a performer who can torch the nets with focus and flawless form, with the reality that you will miss more shots than you make?
One of the secrets of high achievers is that there is no such thing as failure, there is only results.
Put differently, there is success, and there is results that lead to success through learning, experience and evolving skill.
The price of success is a lack of success.
More precisely, we would say that the price of success is hard work, dedication and trusting in pending success when present success fails to manifest.
Babe Ruth embodied this performance philosophy as a slugger, and undoubtedly you will do the same as a shooter.
On his way to 714 long balls and a candy bar in his name, the Sultan of Swat swung and missed often.
Yet here is a key: His whiffs occurred without harm to his self-image, or tarnish to his own vision as a long ball slugger.
In baseball, basketball or badminton, lesser-willed players have succumbed to comparable adversity.
But the Babe kept slugging away, with often only air to show for his mighty hacks.
This is not to say that he enjoyed striking out anymore than you like missing a wide open 18 footer. But the Babe did not allow a whiff or two, or two hundred, to hinder his self-belief that he could go yard on his next at-bat.
He did not allow a string of whiffs to define him as a slugger, as you should not allow a series of misses to define yourself as shooter. Instead, negativity and self-doubt is caste aside in favor of presence, focus and trust, in anticipation of the next hot streak or home run swing.
We can call this special quality whatever we like, including self-belief, mental toughness, inner fortitude, competitive resolve, resiliency or being too cocky to know any different. What matters is not the label assigned, but the underlying character traits that lead to achievement.
"Don’t be afraid of failure. This is the way to succeed." - LeBron James
In 1955, at the age of 66, Colonel Sanders traveled the country to peddle his secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices. He approached restaurants to seek $0.04 commission per chicken to serve his delectable blend. Mostly, he heard "no." In two years, only five restaurants agreed. He swung and missed often, but he kept swinging, with his self-belief and KFC blend charting a path to finger licking success.
Thomas Edison whiffed too. He was also one of the greatest inventors in history, with over 1000 original patents to his name. Before producing the first commercially viable electric light bulb, he failed to succeed an estimated 2000 times. Swinging and missing, so to speak, over and over, while surely frustrating, never deterred his self-belief, nor his vision of a more luminous future for mankind.
So then, we stumble into a key insight into mastery, with a slugger, a light bulb and a bucket of chicken as symbolic inspiration. Those who achieve the extraordinary do so not based solely on innate talent. It is through a persistent self-belief, a vision that endures over negative feedback, and a courage to continue to swing for the fences that makes the difference.
Michael Jordan put it this way:
I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
None of this means, of course, to embrace a lack of success, or to passively resign oneself to struggle as inevitable. The opposite is true, as energy should always be directed positively, to the focus and form necessary to manifest your all net visions.
Yet the motivational narratives of Edison, MJ, the Colonel and the Babe reveal a nugget of wisdom to be extracted by anyone seeking to be extraordinary. A fearless relationship should be forged in each moment, between you and the potential it holds, assuming a courageous disregard to any obstacle in the way of your aspiration.
This is an elaborate way of saying "don’t be afraid to fail," which we know is an illusory term anyway, with the aforementioned achievers as rousing examples.
Still it bears reminder: Don’t be afraid to be miss. Don’t get discouraged by adversity. Don’t ever wallow in frustration.
Abide in a vision broader than your most recent game or shot attempt. Know that the only thing more potent than a shooter with fundamentals on lock is one who proceeds boldly in the face of challenge, fearless in habit, always seeking to connect with the sweet part of the bat.
Just as the Babe did not fear another swing and miss, as the Colonel did not fear another closed door, as Edison did not fear another schematic tossed in the trash, as MJ did not fear a one point deficit with 5 seconds to play, you can act in kind, knowing that greatness is reserved for those who persist to aspire greatly.
4 for 23 ain't no thang.