When I was 10 years old, I decided I wanted to play basketball for a living.
I devised a simple plan. I was going to work my tail off, fly to the US and become a professional basketball player in the NBA (National Basketball Association).
Most people advised me against it. Most of them told me: “You know how many ballplayers actually make it to the NBA? Less than one percent.”.
I was as stubborn as a mule growing up. I still am. So, I didn’t listen and I went for it anyway.
That stubbornness helped me push through. Eventually, I found my way to the US.
When I got here, the same “less than one percent of people make it” argument came up a few more times. Still, I charged forward.
Most people were right. I FAILED. It turned out, I was not good enough to play professional basketball.
Despite my failure, I would do it the same way if I had a do-over. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Moreover, I’d advice anyone chasing dreams bigger than the milky way, to chase on. Chase on no matter how many times people tell you not to. Below, are a few reasons why.
Why seek failure
First, failure is good. No matter how many people want to convince you otherwise, failure is good. Most of us know that experience is the best teacher.
It’s nearly impossible to replace learning through trial-and-error. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t, requires a few failed attempts.
Error (failure) is an integral part of the trial-and-error process. Many successful professionals believe failure is a key component to success.
Michael Jordan (The best player in the history of the NBA), famously said in a commercial: “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed”.
Albert Einstein once said: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”. Bill Gates said: “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure”.
These are three of the most successful people in their respective fields. Each of them understands the importance of failure, as a means
Failure is a great teacher
Failure is like pain. It’s an amazing teacher.
There is a condition in medicine called congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP) People with CIP cannot physically feel pain.
When I first heard of the condition, I thought to myself “that is amazing. I wish I had that”.
But the more I learned and read about the disease, the more it became apparent that the disease can be deadly to some people who have it.
To illustrate how dangerous CIPA can be, especially in children, here is a quote from an article by Jessica Lear:
Children with CIPA can never learn these lessons. These children will jump out of the tree, experience no pain, and are more likely to repeat that action. They can even sustain multiple-fracture bone injuries. Children with CIPA often gnaw on their fingers to the point where it can endanger their life because they don’t understand that damaging the fingers is harmful. The lips and tongue are other common targets for children with CIPA.Jessica Lear
Failure, like pain can be a great teacher. Failure can teach us humility. Failure can motivate us to work harder. Like Michael Jordan, failure can lead us to success.
Today, I’m a business owner. I run creative events at local restaurants and bars. The past two years of my life have been AMAZING. I feel as though I have been on vacation for the past two years. My job and the people I work with make happier than a camel on Wednesday. I’m not sure I’d be as happy playing professional basketball, as I have been the past two years. If I hadn’t given everything I had to chase my dream of becoming a professional basketball player, I would not be in the amazing situation I am in today. Furthermore, chasing my dreams allowed me to learn many valuable lessons. Lessons on how to compete, on how to work hard, on how to be a team player. I use each of these lessons on a daily basis. Without going for my dreams, I might not have learned these lessons. Without the lessons, I may not have been as happy/successful as I am today.
Ignore the 1%’er argument
Second, the argument that ” less than one percent of people make it” is absurd.
There were over two and a half million artists in the US in 2001.
There are likely more artists today in the world. Less than one percent of artists become as famous as Picasso, Van Gogh or even Bob Ross. There are millions of teachers in the world today. Only a handful of them become renowned as the best in the world.
There are more than a thousand of law firms in the US alone. Less than one percent become WLRK.
Whether you want to be an artist, an athlete, a teacher, a business owner, or a lawyer, making it to the top of any industry takes a herculean effort.
Competition is everywhere. Telling kids not to chase their dreams because they might not make it to the top, is teaching them not to compete.
Moreover, it’s robbing them of hope. The hope and belief that they can achieve anything they want.
I understand some parents/adults want to protect their kids from the pain of failure. In my opinion, the pain of regret is much worse than that of failure.
A dream deferred is likely gone forever. On the other hand, a failed project or endeavor can always be attempted again and again.
Jim Carrey perfectly summarized this idea in a commencement speech. He said: “You can fail at what you don’t want. So, you might as well take a chance on doing what you love”.
An inspiring anecdote
If the two arguments above don’t convince you, consider the story of the Rock. The Rock played college football at the University Of Miami.
He wanted to play professional football. Like me, he failed.
Today, he is one of the most successful entertainers in show business. The Rock failed to become a “one-percenter” in one industry (professional sports).
Instead, he became a “one-percenter” in show business.
Sometimes failing to reach the top level in one field, sets you up to become even more successful in a different field.
The Rock isn’t the only example.
Isaac Newton failed as a farmer and became one of the most influential scientists of all time.
Vera Wang failed as a figure skater. Today she is one of the best fashion designers in the world.
There are many more examples. I, unfortunately, I do not have time to list them all in this post.
The takeaway from this inspiring anecdote is that being a failure in one industry, doesn’t make you a failure as a whole. Matter of fact, it doesn’t make you a failure at all. It just means you failed once, that one time, at that one thing you tried.
So, next time someone tells you not to chase your dreams because you’ll more than likely not make it to the top, kindly ask them to take a hike.
Then, resume your chase. Also, if you ever get the urge to tell someone not to chase their dream because they might not make it, DON’T.
Finding success and/or happiness requires grueling efforts.
That shouldn’t deter you or anyone from attempting it anyway.
The odds don’t mean you’re unlikely to get there. The odds mean that most people gave up because someone told them they couldn’t or shouldn’t.
I’m not saying that if you try you’ll make it. I’m saying that you should aim for what you want because life is short. I’m saying you should go for it because if you do, you’ll be happy because you’ll either make it or you’ll learn something valuable in the process.
Finally, I’m saying you should go for it because the pain of failure is much better than that of regret.