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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Take A Chance

I've been reading Pour Your Heart Into It, by Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks. There are a number of very interesting ideas throughout the book that chronicles the emergence of Starbucks, from a small chain of four local coffee stores in Seattle, to a status in our culture where the shops are ubiquitous. However, one statement by Schultz in particular attracted my attention and found its way into my collection of inspirational quotes that help me maintain my own compass points.

"If you say you never had a chance, perhaps you never took a chance."

Those words reminded me of when my son played varsity basketball in high school. He enjoyed the sport very much but despite his commitment and desire he spent more time seated on the bench than playing in the game. Nonetheless, he worked hard each day in practice and prepared for any opportunity he might have to enter the game. Eventually he appeared on the court more and more. However, I noticed that although he was an active contributor in the game, bringing a spark of energy to the team with his passionate effort, he rarely attempted any shots.

After a game one night he confided his fears that if he tried a field goal and missed his coach would pull him from the action and he would once again be exiled to the bench. He relished playing and was averse to doing something that would deprive him of remaining in the game.

It was disappointing to hear that his coach might exercise such an unforgiving attitude toward the reserve players to the degree that they were hesitant and anxious about taking risks. I seized on the chance to share a quote from hockey great Wayne Gretzky that was so relevant. Gretzky scored more goals than anyone else in professional hockey. He once said, "You miss every shot you don't take." I went on to explain that at one point in time Babe Ruth simultaneously held the baseball record for most strikeouts as well as the record for most home runs. Similarly, there have been few players in the history of the National  Basketball Association who have been considered better than former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan. Yet, there are even fewer players who have ever missed as many shot attempts as Jordan.

I imagine there are a lot of people who allow worries and insecurities to inhibit their possibilities. The fear of missing a shot has prevented many people from experiencing the joy of making a shot, at the basketball hoop or at life. It's sad to consider the loss when one surrenders ambition and desire to fear.

There is a story about the remarkable magician, Harry Houdini (though I don't know whether it's true or apocryphal). It seems that Houdini would attract publicity by boasting that he was able of breaking out of any jail cell. His challenge was accepted by numerous towns interested in making a name for themselves by proving him wrong. Houdini successfully escaped the confines of all jail cells by using a lock pick he had secreted in his possession when he entered each cell. And then, he was finally stumped in the unlikeliest of places, by a jail in a small village in Ireland. No matter what he tried he was unable to break out of the cell. Frustrated and tired he gave up and leaned against the door, only to fall out of the cell. The clever Irish guards had simply never locked the door. Houdini was trying to pick a lock that wasn't locked - except in his own mind.

I'm glad to say that my son persevered and discovered success, not only in basketball but many other ventures, with increased confidence and trust in his potential. Just think of the gain in human capital that could be realized if more and more people overcame fears and stopped complaining of never having a chance and instead took a chance in the form of a calculated risk or a peek around the corner.

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