processing success and failure

This past weekend I enjoyed the challenge that three different voices shared in our service - one of which included a teenager named Will. He shared a story he heard from one of the Indianapolis Colts players and the pressure that team felt just after winning the Super Bowl to "do it again next year." We're talking the very next day.

It reminded me of how just a couple months back the largest TV audience in U.S. history watched Santonio Holmes make the Super Bowl game-winning catch with just 35 seconds left on the clock. And it was no ordinary 6-yard TD catch - the QB lofted a pass over the fingertips of a Cardinals defender toward the back-right corner of the end-zone where Holmes grabbed it well above his head to fall back down, barely scrape the end-zone grass with both cleats, and then crash down out of bounds. Those few inches of weight via his toes helped the 24 year old and his team rewrite history, garnering six Super Bowl wins. Perhaps this is why Holmes easily became the MVP of the game and was featured on many talk shows to recap the play.

Two things have intrigued me about these slices of life.

When all was said and done, Holmes didn't go out and party with the players but instead took his kids to the hotel and watched Madagascar 2. Given his trouble earlier in the year with marijuana, that's an intriguing and positive choice. I hope it continues to be his trend.

One play before all of this hoopla, though, Santonio missed. The ball went right through his hands in the end zone, causing the commentators to question his ability to pull it off.

Just as Santonio made Superbowl history in a positive way, he could have also made Super Bowl history in a negative way.

During an interview on the Tonight Show, Holmes said, "When I sat down, I gathered all my thoughts like, 'Man, I just really lost the Super Bowl for us.' You know, that's what was going through my mind. We got back into the huddle... and [our] coach called that play - that was the play we had been working on all post-season. You know, we never used it - I think we only used it one time in the game actually. And when he called that play I thought, 'This is my chance to score that touchdown.' Ben went through his progression and I don't think he could have placed a more beautiful pass than that."

The officials had some doubt whether his feet were on the ground, but Santonio wasn't.

"I was 110% sure that my feet were on the ground. I made sure they didn't leave the ground once I extended my hands to reach up for the ball, and the ball just game. After seeing the guys - the defenders - actually like swatting their hands in the air, I was like 'These guys are about to pick this ball.' But my eyes never left the ball. My focus was there, the ball touched my glove, and I knew right then and there that I had a touchdown."

All of this is what Santonio is being known for these days. He's even partnered with Reebok to auction off the winning gloves for sickle cell research. And just like the Colts, Holmes is already dealing with the pressure to keep performing to keep the talk up. He's in good company, too:

  • In 2008: New York Giants receiver David Tyree made another one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history, using his helmet to reel in a pass from Eli Manning during a game-winning drive that squashed the undefeated Patriots.

  • In 2006: Another Steelers wide receiver, Antwaan Randle El, showed off his versatility by throwing a perfect 43-yard trick-play touchdown to Hines Ward that helped seal Pittsburgh's 21-10 victory over Seattle. Randle El didn't make $500,000 that season. In the next two seasons, as a member of the Washington Redskins, he made over $5 million... even though many Redskins fans would question why.
  • In 2004: Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch had a career-making game in New England's thrilling 32-29 Super Bowl win over the Panthers. The little-known receiver caught 10 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown and won the MVP award.

Any one of those players could have missed, and that is what is amazing about this issue of failure and success. It is something Type-A's and Type-B's struggle with, but in different ways.

  • For the typical Type A, the competitive drive can really cause a sense of loss that becomes a hard attack on how they think (which in turn affects identity).

  • The average Type-B will feel a different kind of loss through the sensitivity of feelings, creating tension in their relationship to others and self (again, affecting identity).

Without a "greater perspective," the play that takes you backward can become the play that takes you down... and you may have missed out on the play that could have taken you into the end zone.

But that's not the real lesson... that you should just "keep playing." The real lesson is that you need a Voice bigger than your failure - and your success. I've learned that if I let people have a voice of affirmation into my life, I am more inclined to let their voice of criticism.

The average person reading this won't have a moment in the NFL to catch such a pass. But they will deal with success and failure in the workplace, at home, and among friends. When that pink slip shows up in the mailbox, it can play with your head; when your family questions your integrity, you can begin to do the same; when friends seem to want nothing to do with you anymore, you can take their own issues personally.

A question - what will the loudest voice in your life be?

Will it be the fickle cheering and booing of the crowd...

or will it be the One who says you're worth something no matter what?

The success or failure of that is a pass that is headed straight for your hands.


  1. Great blog. So we can have the option of using God’s perspective of our accomplishments and trials or mistakes over our own view or someone else’s if we let him and are willing to listen to the most important voice in our life… Well, that was my take… Surly advice I can often use.

  2. Good stuff, Tony. This is true in so much of life, not only in "leadership" situations. Thanks for your thoughts.