Greatness starts with failure

When we look at Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, or Arthur Ashe we see a finished product. We see Olympians, world champions, we see greatness.

We don’t see Ali, Cassius Clay, as a kid with dyslexia, struggling with reading and barely graduating high school. We don’t see the kid from Wilmington, NC, his “Airness” that got cut from the varsity basketball team. Arthur Ashe’s mother died when he was six years old, we don’t see that pain and perseverance. Those challenges are unappreciated but that was Ali, MJ, and Arthur Ashe before they were known as great.

Greatness at its beginning is unpopular. It’s strict rules of getting home in 12 minutes after school. It’s studying harder, it’s working harder, it’s extra laps in the sun, missing shots in the rain, it’s waking up at 5am to jog 7 miles. Before all the glory of being great, there’s moments of failure and days of pain. Greatness doesn’t start with success, it starts with failure. Before sticking that perfect landing in gymnastics, it begins with blisters on your hands. Before winning one round in a fight it begins with hundreds of push ups and getting punched in your face. What we don’t see is that frustration of failure turn into motivation.

Where does greatness end? I don’t believe it never really ends, not in the end zone, finish line or on the gold medal podium. The key to greatness is where it begins. It begins with you getting up instead of hitting snooze, it begins with being the last one in the library, or the first one to practice, the only person not trying or using marijuana. When you rush home to pick up a book to study instead of turning on a game console. Yes, it’s lonely in the beginning. It begins at the learning from the failure of trying something new. There’s a quote the goes something like, “Failure is not trying and being unsuccessful, failure is not trying at all.”

So before you can be the greatest in the Olympics, Wimbledon or the Superbowl on the world stage for everyone to see, you have to learn how to fail by yourself and get back up. At it’s core greatness begins with developing better habits that teach you how to be better than everyone else. When I say everyone else, think about it…EVERYONE else.


Start where you are, Use what you have. Do what you can. -Arthur Ashe

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” -Michael Jordan

I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” -Muhammad Ali 

One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation. -Arthur Ashe

“To learn to succeed, you must first learn to fail.” -Michael Jordan

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan

The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.
-Muhammad Ali 

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