An Amazing Reframing of Failure, in Sports and at Work

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I love this clip of John Amaechi (also embedded below), a former NBA player turned psychologist from England.

He's very wise, and I've always enjoyed hearing him as a guest on the Dan Le Batard show and podcast. He made another appearance last week on Dan's “South Beach Sessions” podcast series. The whole episode was fantastic.

But what really caught my attention? Talk of failure… a story shared by a very successful person.

Here, starting around 6:47 (the embedded video below should start there), he tells a story about playing his first-ever basketball game as a tall 17-year-old in England. His first shot missed the basket by about 6 feet.

Referencing the idea of a “growth mindset,” John recalls “what was amazing” was the way one of his teammates reacted to his miss, saying:

“That was his first shot, and he only missed by six feet.”

John says:


“What an amazing re-framing of failure.

That's when I decided I would play in the NBA.”

And he did.

My book project, Practicing Lean, is all about having a growth mindset and the authors sharing our stories of “failing” with Lean early in our careers.

Imagine hearing comments like these:

“That was their first kaizen event. They only missed by six feet.”

“That was their first 5S project. They only missed by six feet.”

“That was the first morning huddle that they've ran. They only missed by six feet.”

What are the equivalents in your work?

How can we re-frame failure or mistakes as “stepping stones toward winning,” as my friend and former NFL player Lenny Walls says?


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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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