You Have to Take Your Shots

April 3, 2010 at 3:22 am | Posted in Links | 1 Comment

I love this post from Knowledge Is Necessity, and not just because he uses basketball, a sport I adore, as a metaphor for life. He examines the playing style of Shane Battier, a small forward whose scoring stats are unimpressive, but whose defensive game is spot-on. Battier may not win every game, but his process guarantees that at least he can say he’s given it his best effort.

This is another way of getting at a truth that I’ve mentioned before in this space: you have to take your shots. Basketball players miss lots of shots — many more than they make. If they don’t accept and embrace failure, they will never taste success. Here’s how Michael Jordan puts it:

I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot…and missed. And I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why… I succeed.

Another basketball quote I love, this one from Jerry West:

“You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good.”

Ain’t that the truth.

And Derek Jeter:

“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.”

Finally, Larry Bird:

You never make any of the shots you never take. 87% of the ones you do take, you’ll miss too.

All basketball quotes are from, a fine resource.


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  1. Well put. One imagines what a MLB pitcher must feel like — even if he’s a good one — getting yanked off the mound by the manager after giving up two consecutive home runs in an important game. I would feel like a total idiot — wouldn’t you just want to go hide underneath the stadium? Yet the records of even some of the greats show that their win-loss percentage is in the 50-60% w/l range. Which means an awful lot of those miserable trips from the mound back to the dugout….

    Then, too, good language teachers usually point out that the only way to learn a language is not to mind failing pretty much constantly for quite a long time.

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