Fail With Dignity

“I would go 0-30 before I would go 0-9. 0-9 means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game.” – Kobe Bryant

You are, absolutely inevitably, going to lose, fail, crash, screw up, or drop the ball. Probably more than once; probably, with some significance, a hundred times. There’s lots of good advice out there about how to move forward past it, how to learn lessons and improve for the future. Heck, that’s a topic I’ve written about in this blog more than a few times.

But it’s also important to do the failing itself with a little grace and a little style. It’s important to keep a sense of self that isn’t defined by the failure, and that’s easier to do if you can fail with dignity.

There’s a sci-fi novel by Robert Heinlein called Space Cadet, and in one chapter two of the main characters have crash-landed on an alien planet. They’ve survived, but their ship is completely wrecked. However, their course was well-known and they belong to a major organization; rescue will happen quickly and they’re in no immediate danger from their peaceful surroundings. Despite this, one of the cadets gets to work on the utterly impossible task of attempting to repair his spacecraft with basically rocks and sticks. The other cadet asks why he’s bothering – even if what he was attempting was possible, it would take decades and rescue would reach them in days. The more ambitious cadet answers that he’s well aware that they’ll be rescued, and when they are, he does not intend for his rescuers to find him sitting around on his ass waiting to be rescued.

That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about. It’s going 0 for 30 instead of 0 for 9, because you didn’t give up. It’s crossing the finish line in a race, even in last place. It’s keeping your head up, even when that’s all you’ve got left.

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