Yesterday, I went to the gym to play some basketball. Basically, I needed to get away from a computer monitor and get physically active. Running around and shooting a basketball was an easy and fun way to spend 15 minutes.
I started using the gym at my day job a few months ago. I haven’t played basketball since high school, and I was never very talented at it in the first place. Still, I wanted to practice shooting baskets. I would shoot from the free throw line and try to make five shots in a row. The highest I ever got was four shots. I just could not make that fifth shot! It was frustrating because I would shoot the ball and make a basket or two, then I would miss. Sometimes, I would miss completely. I was getting very inconsistent results.
Yesterday, however, I didn’t bother with free throws. Oh, I tried them a few times, but I decided that I was going to be fine with missing a shot. I just wanted to make a shot from anywhere. So I would shoot, and if I missed, I would grab the rebound and take the shot from wherever I was as quickly as I could. I noticed that I was making quite a few baskets, or maybe I just ignored the fact that I was still missing baskets because they gave me an opportunity to run and grab rebounds.
In any case, I took the failure of not making baskets, made it a part of the process of playing basketball, and felt great about it.
Michael Gelb, the author of “How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci”, gave a seminar on creative thinking over a month ago, and I was able to attend. To go to the seminar, I had to bring a ball. Gelb taught everyone how to juggle, and to do so we needed to get into teams of at least three people. Besides becoming a student of juggling, I also became interested in the way Gelb learned to juggle.
When he first wanted to learn, his teacher told him to “take three balls, throw them up in the air, and don’t let them bounce”. Technically accurate advice, but it was not very helpful. Still, Gelb tried very hard to juggle, and every time he dropped the balls, he became even more determined and would try harder. Eventually, after struggling for so long, he learned to relax. He no longer became stressed when he dropped a ball. He pointed out that no one learns how to juggle without dropping a ball, and so when he had us go through the steps to learn how to juggle, he made failure a part of it.
The first step was to throw one ball in an arc, but you DON’T catch it! Catching it is your partner’s job (and another reason why we needed partners). Dropping the ball used to be a point of failure, but now it was a part of the learning process. Now when you drop a ball, you know that it is part of the learning process.
I found that when I was shooting baskets yesterday, I did not feel nearly as disappointed about missing a basket as I used to feel. Missing a shot meant that I could practice rebounds and could get another opportunity to shoot. Missing a shot was no longer a point of failure. It was a part of the learning process.