“I’m starting to enjoy these challenging climbs! Every time I start to get afraid, I move past that fear and look for an opportunity to grow. The more I overcome that fear, the more I realize it’s not that bad. . . You’re developing a growth mindset!”

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Chapter 6 Reflection Questions: What are some of your biggest failures? How did they provide an opportunity to learn and grow? 

The intent of this chapter is to introduce the growth mentality concept. Author J.P. Nerbun uses Stanford University professor Carol S. Dweck as a reference in Calling Up to clarify the differences between someone willing to overcome challenges with a growth mentality, versus simply accepting their fate with a fixed frame of mind.

*Check out Carol Dweck’s TED Talk – The Power of Believing You Can improve*

Name a coach that hasn’t failed and I’ll show you a liar. Coaching is a trial and error gig. Count how many rejection letters or emails you have received while trying to climb the ranks. It happens. The nature of our business is to understanding rejection is a negatively nuanced way of finding a different path. I’ve certainly had my fair share of rejection letters, letdowns, and losses. I’ll give an on-the-court example and an off-the-court experience.


Each loss is considered a failure in its own right. The number of breakdowns between two teams competing typically can determine the result. It was a particular loss during the postseason a couple years ago that sticks out the most. Full disclosure, I still haven’t watched the film. Following a tremendous regular season, we had put ourselves in a position to compete for a district title championship and a spot in the Final Four of the State Championships. We had had a battle-tested roster with purposeful leadership; it created the right balance in practices that indicated poise to make a strong run during the post-season. We had done just that – running off 14 straight wins at one point. The District Championship game we found ourselves up 20 plus points going into the second half. And we knew what to expect; the pressure was going to come and an adjustment on their end was sure to be made to get a couple different looks offensively. You can fill in the blanks from here.

It was a tough loss. As their coach, I felt like the biggest failure to our guys who had worked so hard to create opportunities for themselves. They had earned the right to be labeled Champions. Their work ethic and persistence to compete were deserved of that recognition. Unfortunately, that is not always how it works.

From a coaching perspective, I had learned how valuable situational preparation is during practices. It taught me that handling pressure isn’t always based on execution of scheme, rather than a disposition developed through trust. I had not instilled enough confidence in our guys to handle pressure situations, allowing them to subconsciously adjust. To have to think then react can create rigidness or indecisiveness, rather than to instinctively make a play. It was tough. The biggest thing I think it can teach that we mentioned (albeit briefly) following the loss, is that despite all of your efforts and preparation sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

We have choices in our response to move forward. I have stolen the line – “The sun will rise again tomorrow. And we move forward.” Yes, there is the locker room moment of sadness and realization that our time together as a team was over. But, the experience together has made them stronger and more accomplished to grow from it.


This next one is kind of tough. Admittedly, my biggest challenges have often come from off-the-court. A lack of self-efficacy as a speaker at times has made for some pretty memorable interviews, and not in a good way. As a competitor it is frustrating. I want to win in everything that I do. To not be able to go into an interview and be able to effectively communicate in a way that I feel appropriately reflects the job that I think I could do if provided the opportunity can be bewildering to me. Currently, I coach at the high school level and have worked as an assistant at the collegiate level so I have found ways to be successful. It is just not at the level that I would like it to be, and that is where the learning experiences are conducive. Each interview gives me a little more familiarity with the process, even the ones where I wish I could have gone back and answered differently.

The growth mindset of this experience is to put myself in situations that are uncomfortable. To this day, I am constantly trying to push myself beyond my comfort zone when it comes to handling speaking situations or dealing with the internal battle that seems to surface when in similar environments. Some days work, other days still seem to elude me. Nonetheless, jobs aren’t awarded to the individuals that don’t apply. Each interview is a learning experience that better prepares me for the next.

“Don’t forget your greatset challenges are your greatest opportunities.”


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