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A Thought From Watching NBA Playoffs

NBA.  National Basketball Association.  I love that game.   During the last weeks of May, Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Orlando Magic in the East Finals.  Throughout the year, the Cavs have had high hopes for winning the championship.  After losing to the Boston Celtics last year, also in the East Finals,  the Cavaliers reloaded their personnel to give their Superstar—Lebron ‘the King’ James—the help to get over the hump.  Lebron worked feverishly to better his game, especially with his defense and long-range shooting.  But in the end, the team proved to be overmatched. And not even with miraculous heroics could one man overcome the blue and white obstacles.  So what does this have to do with us?

I saw the face on Lebron’s face when he and his team lost by more than 10 points in the deciding game 6.    The depth of his emotion was written on that face, etched on his slouching shoulders, tattooed on his burdened back.  He was disappointed.  He was disheartened.   He was defeated.  Since the day he walked off the court in Boston in defeat last year, he had vowed to come back in a vengeance.  The height of his hopes, the depth of his inspiration, and the breadth of his desire were in every drop of sweat that dripped off his brow during practice.  2009 was to be his year, the year when he would achieve his dreams.  Only with such an aspiration could he invest so much of himself in this endeavor.  And from that peak of expectations, the fall was so great; it tore out a gaping hole out of his spirit. 


When was the last time we invested so heavily in something we desire?  Are we sometimes afraid to have such high hopes and expectations because we are afraid that the fall is too painful to bear?  And when we put a ceiling on our expectations, are we able to channel enough of ourselves into making the dream a reality?  Sometimes we say that as long as we do our best, then the results are not so important.  However, can we really try our best if we do not hope for the best of the results?    Nobody likes to lose.  Nobody likes to fail.  And perhaps that is why we tend to remove any ‘objective’ standards to which we can compare against.   We, along with our dear beloved friends and families, encourage ourselves just to compete with ourselves, just strive to be better than who are now.   But is that enough?


So, is the lesson simply that if we don’t fail, then we cannot take the next step to succeed?  Yes, and No.  No, in that we need to have a better understanding of failure.  Failure, must be painful, must be total, and must be devastating.  It must tear our hearts out and so that we never knew it would hurt that badly, because if it doesn’t then we did not hope high enough.   And if we didn’t hope that high, then we didn’t invest enough of ourselves in the process. 


Now that LeBron James has lost, what will he do?  I believe that he will climb out of his despair and begin to raise that same hope for the championship.  He will strive towards that hope, and in the process, once again, invest all of himself in the off-season training.  He knows the pain of failure.  And perhaps deep inside, he is afraid to fail.  And yet he will go on despite that fear.  Because perhaps, his hopes and expectations are stronger than that fear.


So when motivational speakers tell us, “do not be afraid to fail”, what are we suppose to learn from it?  When we try something, we should be mentally prepared to fail, so that we are not devastated when we do, in fact, fail?    And when we’re so well prepared, then we have put just capped how hard we will try.  Maybe the better lesson is, when we try something, failure should not be an option, so that we force ourselves to put in the necessary effort.   Failure must be feared.  Such obsessive fear will drive us to find the best in ourselves.   

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