“I’ve learned so much, so very much about myself in defeat.
I’ve learned very little to nothing in victory.”
Floyd Patterson, Heavyweight Boxing Champion
Ladies and Gentleman, after 66 years on this planet, I am proud to present The Best Teacher Award to my dear friend Failure.
Please hold your applause. I have more to say.
Failure and I have been friends a long time. Sometimes he prefers to be called defeat or disappointment. But not for long. The funny thing is he doesn’t suffer when I call him those names, I do. So my old buddy becomes an even better friend when I call him teacher. And I will admit from the get-go that changing his name is not always an easy thing to do.
I get angry.
It doesn’t sound like much fun, does it. And for a time it’s not. But ultimately I must get to the magic question, what have I learned from failure?
Now we’re going to discuss some numbers.
I have a social security number.
I have a telephone number.
I have a number on my house.
My bank account has a number.
My blood pressure has numbers and so do my credit cards.
You’ll find a number on the bottom of my shoes and the inside of my shirt.
When I went to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles last week, I was instructed to take a number before I could buy a license plate that has more numbers on it.
And I’m still looking for my lucky lottery numbers.
Like mine, your life most likely includes a lot of numbers.
Now let me tell you about the two most important numbers when we’re talking failure.
The numbers are 714 and 1330.
When Babe Ruth was King of Baseball he had 714 home runs and 1,330 strike outs. Twice as much failure as success.
The Babe explained it this way, “I swing big, with everything I’ve got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.”
And living big means striking out every now and then.
Travel with me back to grade school.
After ducking out a rear door and running down a street where I was sure no other kids would find me, my eyes exploded in tears. I had just flunked the fourth grade. Devastated, feeling worthless, I pushed on knowing I was branded “stupid” for life.
When my escape route failed and the neighbor’s kids saw me, it got worse. Arrows would have hurt less than their taunts. It didn’t feel like my most shining moment.
But that was long before I heard about Babe Ruth.
Hang a tiny baseball bat on every graduation cap, the game of life is just beginning. Sometimes you’re going to strike out. That’s okay. Your turn will come again. The next swing could bring a home run.
And repeating the fourth grade can make you twice as smart.