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‘The Last Dance’ - A Lesson in Failure



INFLUENCER: Affixxius' Tim Cabrelli on the Michael Jordan documentary and what the industry can learn from it

‘The Last Dance’ - A Lesson in Failure

I grew up with a picture on my wall of Michael Jordan, smoking a great big cigar, holding the Championship trophy but I’m not really sure why. His poster was surrounded by various footballers from Shoot magazine but there he was, like an oasis in the desert. This guy who played a completely different sport that I’d barely watched, surrounded by much lesser sporting icons (sorry Barry Venison). I was excited to watch The Last Dance, a documentary series centred around the career of the legendary Jordan, but I definitely didn’t expect it to impact me as much as it did. 

Within 10 minutes of watching, like the rest of the world, I was hooked. I love a sports documentary, but the way this one travelled the narrative through time was effortless and even if you’re not a basketball fan, the way it really held a mirror up to that time and space makes it a masterpiece. From a nerdy filmmaking point of view, it delivered, but I certainly didn’t expect to walk away with a life lesson from it. It’s almost ingrained in us as children to avoid failure. It’s not a great thing to experience; as a child you can’t really comprehend that feeling and as a parent you try to guard your children against it with constant positive reinforcement. So there I am watching Michael Jordan, being fully aware of all his success but then realising so much of it was been achieved by losing.

“I’ve missed more than 900 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 this is why I succeed.”

This statement really resonated with me. The Last Dance obviously focuses heavily on the successes, but it doesn’t shy away from how they were achieved. Incredible amounts of dedication and unbelievable talent but also lots and lots of failure along the way to drive that success. We’ve all worked on projects that sadly haven’t gone to plan or ads that didn’t achieve what they thought they’d achieve, whether that be figures or just the recognition, but these kinds of experiences shape us into the better companies and agencies we are today.

Failure is such an important part of our path to success; not many of us are going to climb to the heights of Michael Jordan (and by that, I don’t mean a poster on my wall), but every day we get knock backs, some huge and some very small, but trying to see as many of these as a positive with the potential to do better, will only ever be a good thing. If somebody like Michael Jordan is saying he stored up all that knowledge of missed shots and lost games and used them as fuel to become the icon he is, I think we can all accept our imperfections, learn from our mistakes and make sure the next time we go out on the equivalent of our court, we bring our game faces.  

In these incredibly uncertain economic times, I think we have to accept there is going to be a lot more failure going on, not all of our own doing, but we need to brace ourselves for tough times. I’m not ashamed to say that during the financial crisis of 2008 our company was about 2 weeks away from not existing. We were new to the business world and had never even heard of a recession. The lessons we learnt and the speed in which we had to learn them certainly prepared us better for these times. There was a certain sense of irony to me watching The Last Dance, as I realised that all the work we’re doing now as a company is born from those failures of 2008 and all the many things we did wrong. This time around we’re in the best position to hit the game winning shots and come out of these times a better, stronger and more united company and industry than before.

Tim Cabrelli is senior partner at Affixxius
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Affixxius, Thu, 04 Jun 2020 10:19:05 GMT