Learn From Your Mistakes
Apr 16, 2010Posted by james

Watching Tiger Wood’s play last week at the Masters made me reflect on his earlier mea culpa. He apologized to his fans for letting them down with his recent off the course transgressions. It revived memories of similar apologies from other well-known sports figures including football’s Michael Vick’s apology for animal cruelty and Mark McGwire’s apology for past steroid use. These public apologies are mostly for behavior off the field and carry the stamp of the athlete’s PR team. These admittances to bad and often criminal behavior acknowledge the mistakes that were made and promise to behave better in the future.

While these public apologies have become necessary in this media driven society, I often question how they help a sport. Specifically, it is more rare that we see an athlete actually apologize for a poor performance on the field. Instead, we often see fights with the ref and other players often break out when an athlete is called on their on-field penalties.

I think it might be more useful for players to listen more, argue and apologize less, learn from their mistakes, and play better the next time. When I was in high school, I spent a long time trying to get over a season changing performance where I felt that I let my team down. I was playing football for Half Hollow Hills High School. We were undefeated and in the final minute of our championship game vs. Walt Whitman. I had the ball and it got stripped by the other team who went on to score. It was our only defeat all season and I carried the weight of the team on my shoulders for letting them down.

Eventually, I regrouped and got into the best shape of my life.  I used that failure as motivation, turning a bad situation into positive long term results for me – both athletically and personally.  It made me a better player and, later, a better businessman.

I did go on to play lacrosse for two years at Hofstra University.  Ironically, although I was named All-American in my sophomore season, I believe that my greatest contributions to Hofstra’s lacrosse program have come off the field today. I am convinced that both of these achievements were made possible by my early failures.

Whether it is in sport or your business, you gain much more by accepting your failures and keeping your hand in the game.  Those mistakes shape our experience and we learn from them whether we realize it or not.