Without failure, we can't enjoy success

"(Parents) want to take all the pain, all the heartache and all the sadness out of their kids' lives. All the things that make you a better person, a better coach, a better teacher - all the things that are so much the fabric of life. I'm so much better for every loss I've had."

- Rick Majerus, head basketball coach at Saint Louis University

Sometimes it just hits you. You're reading along and a sentence or paragraph or fact jumps off the page. Sometimes it feels like it literally smacks you in the face.

It's an "ah-hah" moment. That time when someone writes or says something you wish you had written or said. That time when something or someone makes nothing but sense to you.

I had one of those moments recently. While reading a Sports Illustrated article on Rick Majerus, the quote above this column jumped off the page. The profile of the former University of Utah basketball coach, now rebuilding the Saint Louis University program, was pegged to the dichotomy of his jovial off-court personality vs. his overly intense demeanor on the court.

He acknowledges being tough on kids, but, as his comments attest, it's almost as if he feels someone must. Our world is one of coddlers, of political correctness and participation ribbons. But Majerus raises a good question - Do we really do well by people when we shield them from disappointment?

After all, it's hard to bounce back if you're never allowed to get knocked over in the first place.

Majerus, by all accounts, is the type of guy people enjoy being around. Off the court, he is funny, self-effacing and very caring of his players, former players and people in general. But on the court? That's another matter.

He's tough, and he's also consistent. And the latter is what separates him from most. Because he doesn't get mad at you once, twice or even 100 times. He gets mad EVERY time a mistake is made. Many of us eventually tire and let a mistake go, but Majerus does not.

And that makes players loathe him during practice, but eventually love him later in life, when they figure out all he was trying to do was make them better.

The kids he yells at nonstop are the same ones he loves. He says there are many people he would like to go camping with, but not too many he thinks he can win with. That mentality can easily be transferred to the business world, where there are many you'd like to close a bar with but few you'd trust to close a big deal.

But that doesn't stop people from sugarcoating things, or from being thought of poorly if they don't. Again, it's that desire to protect against failure.

But overcoming things, failure included, is what defines us. I remember reading a poster when I was a kid that was hung up in my Sunday school room. It read: "Remember: Babe Ruth struck out twice for every home run he hit." It struck a nerve with me then, but these days I think we gloss over the strikeouts while playing too much attention to the homers.

Because there really is no better story than redemption. But to battle back, sometimes you have to be allowed to fall behind.

Many of the best lessons I've ever learned have come from correcting mistakes I've made. They call it learning the hard way, but sometimes it's the best way. Sometimes the only way.

Again, Majerus says it poignantly in the article: "You become so much better a person for all the bad things that happen to you."

The big game you lost. The promotion you didn't get. The injury you suffered. Those things shouldn't define you, but the way you handle them should.

But to show that character, you have to be allowed to have it tested.

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Tuesdays.