The Milwaukee Bucks were one of the favorites to win the NBA playoffs this year, finishing at the top of their conference division. The team had already won a championship in 2021.
That didn’t happen.
Instead, the team lost in the first round, to the eighth seed Miami Heat.
Journalist Eric Nehm recently asked Bucks’ power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, “Do you view this season as a failure?”
Nehm set Antetokounmpo up for an alley oop; a real-life Ted Lasso moment. Commentator Ernie Johnson Jr. called this, “One of the most valuable post-game bites you’ll ever hear.” NBA champion Kenny Smith likened it to a TED talk.
Antetokounmpo starts off quizzing Nehm if every year he was passed over for a promotion was a failure. He catches himself, and broadens the question, asking if the seasons Michael Jordan didn’t win the championships should be considered failures.
Then, he delivers the message:
“It’s not a failure, it’s steps to success.”
I don’t follow (or even like!) sports much at all, yet this resonates so much with me. We’re all going to spend 99% of our time on the journey—facing events that we may label as setbacks, defeats, and losses.
Those words are all just labels, of course. A disappointment is not a tangible object; it’s invented, and it can be reinvented.
Creativity shares a lot in common with sports. Many—most!—people will likely take many years to experience success at their craft. The labor probably won’t pay very well. There is a finite amount of attention, money, and accolades that are being awarded.
In order to last, at the end of the day, the work needs to be enough.
And even a failure isn’t just that; it’s a step to success.