I will admit from the start that I am a huge Cleveland Indians fan. I have suffered through more frustrating seasons than I care to remember. For years by the 3rd month of the 9-month season, all my attention turned to hope for next year.

Then there was the 1989 sports comedy that stared Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes and others as the fictionalized version of the Cleveland Indians baseball team. Hapless was not so fictional. I felt hopeful when I attended the 1995 and 1997 World Series with my family where the Indians competed against the Braves and Marlins, only to watch them lose both times. The 1997 World Series against the Marlins was especially painful. They lost in Game 7--in extra innings--after being ahead until the final innings.

And then there is last year. I was standing on home run porch for Game 7 against the Chicago Cubs and watching Rajai Davis hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie the game at 6-6. I was hoping this season would be different. But no. We lost in extra innings to the Chicago Cubs and took over first place for the longest drought for any major-league baseball team in winning a World Series. It was 1948 when it last happened in Cleveland, 69 years ago, however, just today the Cleveland Indians won their 22nd game in a row--breaking the record for the American League. Winning 22 games in a row is quite a feat for sure.

We will see what is next in the playoffs but for now what strikes me the most is how the Cleveland Indians in recent years have established a culture where failure is the fuel to keep growing and to keep going. I caught a replay of a panel discussion of team executives with titles like director of player development, performance coach, and general manager. They were guests for the Positive Coaching Alliance, which has as a tag line "better athletes, better people."

Learn from Your Mistakes

The comments that stood out for me focused on failure in baseball. A sport where a great hitter will fail 70% of the time. The panel talked about the key being a player's ability to learn from mistakes, and if they see failure as a challenge to learn from or an indictment of their abilities. The performance coach gave the specific example of helping young players with the mental keys that lead to success such as perseverance, resilience, and a passion for the game.

She said that when a player experiences failure it is critical to not step away, but step into the failure with the players to process it, to learn from it, to identify the keys for improvement, and to even see failure as the fuel to greatness. In the case of the Indians, they just may be an organization with individuals that have become stronger from the difficult experiences they have come through; especially last year's near win of the World Series. The players have not just survived, coped, or even managed the disappointment but they've allowed the experience to be transformative. Clearly no one in the history of the America league has won 22 straight games...transformative.

Just of a few of the hints that might help us all use adversity to be truly transformative.

3 Hints to Help use Adversity to be Truly Transformative

  1. The Gift Mindset The mindset is to use the disappointment or negative experience to create something better. The key is to not just bounce back from adversity, but to use adversity to make it transformative. To ask yourself why is this perfect for my growth, and believe it to the point that you find the gift in current failure that resets you on a path to success.
  2. Develop Inner Strength and Resilience The question is how do you summon inner strength when life has dealt you a blow? People that prevail and get to the other side of hard times do so because they discover a part of themselves they didn't know they had. The newly discovered ability becomes so clear through the hardship-- it can't be denied as a new area they focus on.
  3. Letting Go of "Victim" and Becoming a Student
    The best way to use failure as a fuel for future success is to get out of the victim mode by asking yourself questions. Become the best student of your own setbacks. Questions like:
  • What should I focus more on?
  • What should I focus less on?
  • What practices and routines are serving me well and which ones are not setting me up for success?
  • Where can I find a role model that experienced a similar setback and what was their story of the journey from adversity to exceptional achievement?

Make this Year Your Year

In order to succeed we must find a way to learn from our failures and turn those lessons into next time's success story. As for my beloved Cleveland Indians, this year is our year--I just know it. And if not, there's always next year!