This is a quote that has stuck with my through the ages, but seems to have even more relevance now as a young adult, than it did back when I first heard it.
When I was 12 years old I picked up the game of basketball and ran pretty far with it but what’s funny is the things I learned on that very first 6th grade team are some of the things that were the most valuable. We had a very enthusiastic coach who was the janitor for my school. He loved the Chicago Bulls and he had a knack for really hyping us all up to play, even though most of us were terrible at the time. Before each game he would take us out into the foyer and we’d get in a circle and he’d yell, “What time is it?!?!” to which we would of course respond, “Game Time HOO!!” Then he’d say, “I can’t hear you!” And we’d yell again, “Game Time HOO!!” We’d do this call and response until we were in a froth and then we put our hands in the middle of the circle and cheered and then ran out onto the floor.
One of the things he would always tell us is that we miss 100% of the shots that we don’t take. Now that’s obviously quite literally true in a basketball sense. If you are afraid to shoot because you think you might not make it, then you have to realize that you are guaranteed not to make it if you don’t even try. It kind of fits with another quote that I latched onto in my later years; “if you try and fail you end up with nothing less than what you started with anyway.” In basketball, you start out with zero points. If I take a shot and make it then I get two points which is great. But if I take a shot and miss then guess what I end up with…zero points. I’m exactly where I started anyway so it’s no biggie.
Now some people took that advice to an absurd extreme and would take any and every shot they could think of, even if they were very ill advised. This type of foolish, haphazard risk taking is not what the phrase means. It means that if you have an open shot, you should be confident, and in fact, it’s your job to shoot it. Pass up a shot if you see a better play, but never pass up a shot because you are afraid. Successful basketball players want to shoot the ball when it matters in a game. Likewise successful people want to take the risk to try and accomplish something, even though they know there’s a chance they may fail.
As a child we often think we are saving face by not trying. That way no body can witness us failing to score because we didn’t actually attempt to. And avoiding having others witness us fail seems at times to be an accomplishment in itself. But as we grow up we realize that this is faulty thinking. Nobody looks at the teammate next to Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan and says, “wow I really admire that guy because he hasn’t missed a shot all night, granted he hasn’t taken a shot, but he sure hasn’t missed one.” No they look over at Kobe and say wow he’s 10 for 15 shooting tonight. Who cares about the 5 that he missed because the 10 that he made is carrying his team to victory. A person that shoots always has a chance of making it. After all, the ball has to come down somewhere. It might just be in the hoop. But a person who is unwilling to shoot may as well not even be on the floor because while the shooter may miss every shot, with every shot he’s giving himself a chance, but the player who won’t shoot guarantees his own failure.