Career guidance from Michael Jordan

As a Carolina guy, it’s hard to go too many days without having Tar Heel basketball invade at least one of my thought processes.  Basketball goes well beyond sport here in Chapel Hill, and we in University Career Services are not immune to those impulses.

Case in point, this past spring my colleague Laura gave a very creative presentation in which she used a NCAA-style bracket to accomplish two objectives with a group of students.  First, she used had them fill out one wing of the bracket with a variety of employable skills, and then had the students consider the skills and have them”compete” until each student had one in the winner’s bracket, jump starting a conversation about strengths. Second, she flipped the bracket over to illustrate the process of networking in ever-growing branches of connections.

A different basketball/career correlation sprang into my mind this past weekend as I watched a countdown program on ESPN. The segment I watched focused on Michael Jordan’s time as a baseball player.  You may or may not even recall that Jordan played professional baseball briefly after his first NBA retirement.  By many critical reports, his time in baseball was an abject failure.  In fact, there was outright hostility toward his attempt at the sport from many.  But, the best thing for me about his baseball foray wasn’t his stat line (clearly!), it was the fact that he walked away from an arena in which he was considered one of, if not the, greatest of all time to pursue something that he always wanted to try.

Jordan has been quoted as saying, “I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying,” and while his attempt at baseball may have been a failure, he should be applauded for trying.  And there’s a great lesson for all of us — students, staff and faculty.  Better still, sometimes a “failure” is actually a win.  Last week as I was riding the bus to work I was reading the Kvetching Board, a section of the student-run Daily Tar Heel which allows readers to post short, anonymous quips.  The first one in last weeks’ paper brought a big smile to my face.  It read:

Thank you for rejecting me, Kenan-Flagler Business School.  I can now pursue the career I didn’t have the courage to before.

Have you have any situations that initially felt like failures that lead to other opportunities?  Post your stories in the comment section.  I’d love to hear them.

Cross-posted on The Student Affairs Collaborative Blog.

Gary Alan Miller

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