Question: What do most great athletes have in common?

Answer: A competitive drive and will to win regardless of whatever failures preceded their success.

Remember that famous Nike ad featuring this quote from Michael Jordan?

“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.”

Anyone that knew or read about Jordan was aware of his competitive drive and spirit.

Perhaps his first major failure at basketball is also his greatest. He was rejected from the varsity basketball team in high school and relegated to play on the junior varsity squad. His mother offered this inspirational nugget that helped motivate a storied Hall-of-Fame career by encouraging him to realize that...the best thing he could do is to prove to the coach that he had made a mistake.

To reinforce this notion that success requires sacrifice and failure, consider this tidbit from writer Mark Manson, taken from his post about “The Most Important Question of Your Life”:

At the core of all human behavior, our needs are more or less similar. Positive experience is easy to handle. It’s negative experience that we all, by definition, struggle with.

Therefore, what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing and able to sustain to get us to those good feelings.

Finally, consider this track record of overcoming difficulties and challenges:

1816 Family forced out of home. Had to support them.

1818 Mother died.

1831 Failed in business.

1832 Ran for State Legislature. Lost.

1832 Lost job, couldn’t get into law school.

1833 Borrowed money for a business, went bankrupt.

1834 Ran for State Legislature. Won.

1835 Engaged to be married, fiancee died, was heart-broken.

1836 Had a complete nervous breakdown, bedridden for 6 months.

1838 Ran for Speaker of State Legislature. Defeated.

1840 Sought to become elector. Defeated.

1843 Ran for Congress. Lost.

1846 Ran for Congress. Won.

1848 Ran for re-election. Lost.

1849 Sought job of Land Officer in home state. Rejected.

1854 Ran for Senate of the United States. Lost.

1856 Sought Vice Presidential nomination. Received less than 100 votes.

1858 Ran for Senate. Lost again.

1860 Elected President of the United States.

In case you don't know your American history, this was the path of Abraham Lincoln, considered by some to be the greatest President of the United States. Think about that.

In my line of work, I encounter numerous job seekers who frequently lament about the applications that go ignored, the interviews that go nowhere, or the new job that did not pan out as expected. From these moments of disappointment, candidates tend to spiral into a woe-is-me mentality of frustration, anger, and hopelessness.

If you have been or currently are in such a state, here is a dose of tough love: snap out of it and move on! Life is full of disappointments and that will not change.

The challenges and failures we all encounter are indiscriminate. You are not immune to them. The greatest basketball player in the world had to overcome numerous rejections and failure in order to succeed. And so do you.

If you have recently been rejected from a job application or laid off for whatever reason, get back in the game and try again. How much failure are you willing to endure to get where you want to be? Prove to your proverbial employer/coach who rejected you that he/she was wrong to do so.

Good luck out there.


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