The journey between what you once were who you are now becoming is where the dance of life really takes place.            Barbara DeAngelis

For sports fans, March means more than the coming of Spring. It means basketball, be it at a prep or college level. School spirit blends with dreams of a championship. As exhilarating and hopeful as this event is for those who love roundball, there is a sober reality to it as well. Except for one team, everybody else’s season ends in defeat -with a loss. One team celebrates on the final day, while everyone else feels the sting and shame of defeat along the way.

It sounds like there is a lot more pain than pleasure; more failure than success. But it that a fair assessment? It depends on how you look at it. Let’s consider the question on a personal level rather than from a team performance perspective. Sticking with basketball as our yardstick, let’s consider the male player who is ranked by many to be the game’s all-time greatest: Michael Jordan. He was on the top of the basketball pyramid- at the peak. All other players sought to attain his level of success, but all fell short. They all slid off the pyramid while attempting their ascent.

The fall for many began early, perhaps in grade school. After playing rec league ball, they failed to make a middle school team. Many of those that played in 8th grade were on the “cut list” from their freshman team in high school. Many of those never made it to the varsity squad. High school stars had their dreams of a college-playing career go unfulfilled. And most of the university athletes, even those we watched on TV during March Madness, never made a living in the NBA. And for those select few who do draw a paycheck from a pro team, their career ended sooner than they had hoped.

So there was Michael Jordan, and everyone else who wanted “to be like Mike.” But even Mike didn’t get to be Mike forever. After winning six NBA championships, and numerous MVP awards, Jordan retired. Then he un-retired. He tried to be “Mike” again. Predictably, he failed. Nothing, even greatness when attaining the pinnacle, can be sustained forever.

Obviously, I don’t know Michael Jordan personally, so I can’t comment on how Mr. Jordan is handling his inevitable slide off the peak of accomplishment. But I do claim some right to comment on the human condition based upon my personal slide off the aspirational pyramid. In reality, we all can claim expertise on this topic, as we all have experienced that disappointing, but inevitable, crash of hopes.

Why am I choosing such a “downer” of a topic for today’s newsletter? Because it isn’t a depressing or discouraging message, provided we grasp the significance of the issue itself. Three thousand years ago, the poet Homer told us:

The Journey is the thing.

This simple sentence encapsulates a philosophy that can serve all of us, provided we understand it. Do young basketball players (or aspiring musicians, or hopeful entrepreneurs) gain any wisdom, any experience, any insight, from their failed pursuit of a dream? I think so. The player learns the value of effort; the musician the importance of discipline via practice; and the entrepreneur the necessity of seeing that a recent failed idea is simply a preparation for the next better idea.

If Michal Jordan is a wise person, he’s a better man for realizing that even his time “on top” had to come to an end. And that is OK. If he chooses only to look back wistfully on past glory, then he will be wasting the remainder of his life. And so it is true for all of us. “The journey is the thing.”

                Never regret a single moment of your journey.  If it wasn’t your destination,  it was preparation. – Anonymous