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What Joe Montana learned from defeat

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in Leaders & Managers,Profiles in Leadership,Workplace Communication

Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana bookended his football career with two spectacular failures. Both times, his passes were intercepted.

During Montana’s first NFL start, his interception was returned for a touchdown. Then he threw another interception, and for good measure, a defender bowled him over en route to a second goal. The final score: 48-0.

Montana’s last pass as a pro was intercepted in the end zone.

Both times, of course, he got to watch it all over again (and again, and again, in slow motion) on Monday. That was the point. You don’t necessarily watch videotape to see what you did right.

Montana—who wrapped up his 16 years in the NFL as the only three-time Super Bowl most valuable player—offers these two exercises so you can overcome failure in a low-stakes environment:

1. Write down the biggest setback or low point in your career. What lessons did you learn? What mistakes did you make? Why? Could you have prevented them? How will you do better next time?

2. Pick an activity that will stretch your concept of failure—something you don’t have to do well in, and, frankly, something you don’t (yet) do well in. (Remember: No one is great at everything.) Now try laughing at those gutter balls. Contemplate your “failure” and see how you respond physically and emotionally.

“Football is like life,” Montana says. “You have to keep doing it to move ahead.” And when things go wrong, “a quarterback, like any leader, must project a positive attitude and self-confidence in the huddle.”

— Adapted from Joe Montana: The Winning Spirit, Joe Montana and Tom Mitchell, Random House. Photo taken by Phil Hull in 2006, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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