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Hold That "L": Failing Your Way To Success | Installment II

The 2008 NBA Finals resurrected the greatest championship rivalry in the history of the NBA between two of the league's most storied franchises--the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. Meeting in the championship for the first time in 21 years, the 2008 Finals marked the 11th time the Lakers and Celtics battled for the NBA title. The Celtics had won 8 of the previous 10 Finals meetings.

Kobe Bryant had something to prove. He was now the sole leader of the Lakers. This was his first NBA Finals appearance without Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal by his side, with whom he had won 3 NBA titles consecutively in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Additionally, he was tasked with leading his franchise to victory over its' greatest foe.

Bryant had one of the best seasons of his career in 2007-2008. He became the youngest player to reach 20,000 points (before LeBron James became the youngest to do so in 2013) and he won the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award. He also altered the way he interacted with his teammates. Known for his unmatched intensity, Bryant was less demanding and less critical of his teammates. The adjustment seemed to be effective, as he led the Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference and, eventually, to the NBA Finals. That is, until the Lakers met the gritty, hard-nosed, and talent-laden Celtics in the championship.

The Celtics defeated the Lakers to win the 2008 NBA championship. In the deciding Game 6, the Celtics won 131-92. It was the largest margin of victory in a championship-clinching game in NBA Finals history.

After taking that L, Bryant realized the best way to lead his team, was to be himself. In his documentary Kobe Bryant's Muse, Bryant stated, "If I'm going to go down, I'm going to go down my way and lead my way." From that point forward, he did just that.

Bryant pushed his teammates to their limits. He sought to bring the best out of his teammates by getting them to use their past pain, misfortune, and failures as fuel to compete at a higher level and to play with greater ferocity.

Bryant would lead the Lakers back to the NBA Finals that following season where they defeated the Orlando Magic to win the 2009 NBA title. The Lakers made it back to the Finals again in 2010 and faced their nemesis, the Boston Celtics. The hard fought series went to seven games, with the Lakers coming out on top to win back-to-back NBA titles and, in the process, redeeming themselves from the loss to the Celtics two years prior.

Failure teaches us a lot about ourselves. It reveals our resiliency in the face of adversity and our ability to persevere when things do not go in our favor. Scripture states, "perseverance must finish it's work, so that you can be mature and complete, not lacking anything." By pushing through setbacks, you are strengthening yourself and improving the likelihood of successfully completing your objectives in the long run.

Without trials, you are incapable of knowing what you are truly able to accomplish. You are unable to tap into previous hardships and use them to push you through future experiences. If you were able to overcome failure before, you are able to do it again. So use your failures as fuel. Channel those feelings you had during your moments of misfortune to push past whatever adversity stands in the way towards the completion of your goals.

For me, when I don't feel like completing a necessary task or if I experience a setback, I often reflect back to when I was broke, hungry, and struggling to make ends meet. That time in my life was truly a formative experience. I learned that I was capable of withstanding any hardship. I possessed a drive that kept me pushing past any obstacle I encountered. I was unrelenting in the pursuit of my goals. That period in my life made me who I am today and I wouldn't change that experience for anything. So when I ask myself, would the 22-year old version of you approve of being lazy or giving up?--the answer is always nah. I then proceed to get my stuff together and do what needs to be done.

Failure also teaches us to remain true to ourselves. If you're going to fail, do so by your own rules, in your own way. You will never be fulfilled living someone else's dream, all the while knowing you are limiting yourself and your possibilities. You were uniquely created. Therefore, there is a unique path for your life. Don't let anyone order your steps when they have never walked a day in your shoes.

So embrace the L. Use it to fuel you. Look back on your failures and be assured that you are built to weather any storm that comes your way--because you've been there before and you've gotten through it. Remain true to yourself in the pursuit of the life you want to live. Create your own path and be willing to stumble along the way on the road to success. For those failures may be the best things to ever happen to you.

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