In a previous blog post, The Other "F" Word, I wrote that failure isn’t permanent and that success is often the by-product of repeat failures.
I’m not a fan of the New England Patriots football team but if you didn’t know they just won Super Bowl LI with a thrilling 34-28 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons. The Patriots have appeared in the Super Bowl nine times in franchise history, the most of any team, seven of them since the arrival of head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady in 2000. But Bill Belichick was not always a winning head coach in the National Football League. In fact, he only had one heading coach in the NFL before coaching the Patriots.
Belichick was the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator during the 1980s when the Giants won Super Bowls XXI and XXV within a five-year span. Between the Giants and his current job in New England, Belichick had a disastrous decade. After Super Bowl XXV, Belichick took his first job as a head coach, with the Cleveland Browns in 1991. It seemed like he was ready to be a successful head coach in the NFL.
Belichick made several unpopular decisions in Cleveland that he thought would improve the team. Much of who Belichick is today as head coach can be traced back to what he learned to do and what not to do as head coach of the losing Browns. Under his tenure in Cleveland the team had a losing record of 36 wins and 44 losses. Belichick was fired by the Cleveland Browns in 1995.
"The Browns were his training camp, his boot camp for success,'' said Mary Kay Cabot, the beat reporter who covered Belichick and the Browns for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "There were mistakes he made here on players, personnel, staff, public relations…He learned how to do it right by everything he did wrong here'', said Cabot.
The difference between long-term success and failure is our reaction to it. I believe Belichick saw the upside of failure in Cleveland. According to Noa Kageyama, Ph.D.,
“after a failure, we should focus on the specific errors we made PLUS the specific things we did well. Focusing on both the good and bad seems to result in the most learning and performance improvement. Presumably, if we focus only on our mistakes after failures, we’ll get discouraged and spiral into that unproductive dark place.”
Belichick is a reminder to us not let set-backs paralyze and demoralize you. Failures truly are “learning opportunities” to re-evaluate what you may be doing wrong but also what you did well.