Why you must make aggressive mistakes to grow

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

Here are two scenarios on the basketball court:

1) There’s 10 seconds left on the clock. You’ve managed to get wide open, so you get the ball. But you hesitate, thinking someone else will have a better chance of making the shot. So you try to get rid of the ball, but you turn it over because he read you like a book. You lose the series.

2) There’s 10 seconds left on the clock. You’ve managed to get wide open, so you signal for the ball. He passes you the ball, you take the game winning shot, but miss, causing you to lose the series. The walk of shameful head downs back to the locker room ensues.

In both scenarios, the result is the same: You lose the series because of your doing, or lack of doing.

In spite of similar outcomes, they probably don’t feel the same to you, right? Tell me, which scenario would you rather be in?

If you’re thinking like me, then scenario 2 is clearly the ideal way to go out with a bang.

Not all mistakes are made equal. 

Scenario 1 showcases a passive mistake, and Scenario 2 an aggressive mistake.

The difference between aggressive mistakes and passive mistakes is that the former is rooted in courage and the latter in fear.

Taking aggressive mistakes requires courage, boldness, and love, especially for yourself. The odds may not always be in your favor, and you face some risk. But this is ultimately where you’ll find growth and freedom.

On the other hand, passive mistakes results from inaction, hesitation, fear, and self-doubt. Sometimes we can analyze so much to the point of paralysis. With enough time, you can conjure up lists upon lists of reasons why you should not talk to that cute person, start on that new project, or take the shot when you get the ball.

For most of my life, I’ve made passive mistakes.

I only pursued the jobs I felt I could do confidently without failure, but these jobs did not challenge me. I only talked to the girl when the conditions and environment are just perfect. (hint: the conditions and environment are never perfect). And I avoided competitive activities for fear of losing, which in effect would give me 0% chance in winning.

Only recent have I recognized how much opportunity I’ve lost out on because of my lack of willingness to take calculated, aggressive mistakes. I only took action when I felt 100% confident and qualified.

Author Kamal Ravikant would echo my sentiments as well: “If I only did things I was qualified for I’d be pushing a broom somewhere”. And for a long time, I’ve relegated myself to broom pushing somewhere.

When you make passive mistakes, you’re making comfortable mistakes. Nothing great will ever come from mistakes made in the comfort zone.

And what about taking no action? Inaction is an action. It is a choice that we make.  There is a difference between strategically pausing or waiting versus inaction and indecision

Courage and fear are like muscles. Choose to exercise the muscle that you want to use more often. Soon enough, these become habits and you won’t have to choose anymore. You’ll start to consistently flex the more trained and used muscle by default.

Generally, mistakes are fine, but of the two kinds of mistakes one will help you grow and the other stifle you in the game of life. If you make an aggressive mistake, celebrate you exercising courage in spite of losing. You’ve won internally. If you make a passive mistake, take note and do better next time.

Of course, the best kinds of mistakes is no mistakes. But a life of no mistakes is a strong signal for lack of action or stagnation. That, by default, is a mistake