In early 2016, I stumbled upon what is now one of my favorite documentaries. It’s called Particle Fever and it’s the inside story of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

If you haven’t heard of the LHC, it’s the largest man-made machine in human history and it took 20 plus years to conceptualize and build. Spoiler alert, the movie is all about science…. I will wear my “nerd” label proudly.

Large Hadron Collider the largest man-made machine in human history
One of the 4 “crossing paths” of the LHC – Image from CERN

Physicists that work on the LHC have dedicated their lives to searching for proof to answer humanity’s greatest questions.

Where do we come from?

How did the universe begin?

Where are we?

You know…small stuff like that. And believe it or not, there are still MANY things about physics and the way our world works that scientists don’t understand.

By now you’re probably wondering what does this post have to do with youth basketball. Well, it doesn’t have to do with basketball as much as it has to do with sacrifice, work ethic and failure.

But please bear with me!

Savas Dimopoulos: Undiminished Enthusiasm

Savas Dimopoulos particle physicist from Stanford University
Savas Dimopoulos

Now comes the story of Savas Dimopoulos. Savas is a particle physicist from Stanford University.

He’s widely considered one of the greatest physicists in the world and his theories have helped shape modern day physics. And I can’t overemphasize the word “theories”!

Savas has dedicated almost 40 years to developing and testing his theories. In Particle Fever, he is one of the main scientists that the cameras follow.

So, fast forward a little bit….the LHC has been built, Savas has dedicated his life’s work to his theories and once the LHC starts for the first time, Savas should have answers to questions.

The audience sees a scene with him and another physicist talking about how they may have just wasted their entire lives on something that is completely false.

They acknowledge that there is no gray area. Either they have been correct for the last 30 years or they have been chasing a shadow. They will get their answers tomorrow…and they’re terrified.

I equate this to having an NBA draft every 100 years and you’ve worked 30 plus years to get there.

Was it all worth it?

Now comes my favorite scene. Savas is making coffee and talking about his life’s work and what makes him successful or not. He then says, “Jumping from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm is the big secret to success”.

Athlete’s Path to Success

When I first heard that line, I thought it was pretty interesting. So I rewound the movie and listened to it again. “Jumping from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm is the big secret to success.”

I thought about this guy dedicating his life to developing a particular school of thought and coming to terms with himself being a success or a failure….and I couldn’t help but think of an athlete’s path to “success”.

Often times we as parents, coaches and mentors try to shield children from failure. But this is not the way to find success. I’ve met many athletes, business leaders and people from all professions that would be defined as being successful.

One thing they all have in common, their ability to overcome failure. So for young kids, how can they know how to overcome failure if they never experience it?

2018 nba finals cavs vs warriors
LeBron James – GOAT?

In basketball, even the greatest players miss more shots than they make and, at times, lose more games than they win.

LeBron James shoots 34% from 3. That means he misses 66% of his three-pointers!

When it comes to shooting threes, LeBron fails more than he succeeds. Michael Jordan was famously cut from his high school team as a sophomore. These players didn’t quit.

The great ones focus on the next play and don’t dwell on the past. Like Savas, they dedicated their lives to their craft with no guarantee of being “successful”.

Young players must be taught that failure is unavoidable and if they want to be successful, keep moving forward “with undiminished enthusiasm.” Success isn’t found by avoiding failure. It’s found by embracing it, learning from it and enthusiastically moving forward.

Admittedly, maintaining “undiminished enthusiasm” is incredibly difficult. But this is what demonstrates true toughness, both on the basketball court and in life.

It’s not enough to fail and keep trying.  You must fail and keep trying all while staying positive and enthusiastic!

Failing and hanging your head or feeling sorry for yourself or making excuses is demonstrating weakness. We must help young people develop resilience and toughness. Otherwise, we have failed them.

And, by the way, Savas was proven correct in the movie, but only partially. His work continues…with enthusiasm, I’m sure.

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