You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take

“With great power, comes great responsibility.” — Stan Lee, Spiderman

At the beginning of basketball season, during my senior year of high school, my long-time friend and I were named captains of our team. It was a tremendous honor. My coach and teammates thought enough of us to make us leaders. Now, we had to act like them. Which meant, being fearless in the face of big decisions and opportunities.

Despite naming us as captains, my coach also knew we each had our shortcomings. I had to overcome a fiery attitude. I played angry, I played emotional — and my coach knew it. So we addressed it and figured out how to use it to my advantage.

My co-captain was the ultimate team player. In fact, at times, he was a little too unselfish. During one of our toughest losses of the season, on the road against a rival, my friend missed a layup (a close shot) at a big moment in the game. He felt terrible about it, realizing it was a missed opportunity that could have helped us win the game.

So, my coach made sure he knew that making mistakes were OK. He gave him a gift — one I’ve always remembered and reminded myself of at pivotal moments in my life. It was a statuette of a basketball and inscribed on the bottom it read,

“You’ll never make 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

The words are a double-negative take on the famous Wayne Gretzky quote that is the title of this article. Wayne Gretzky is known universally as the greatest hockey player to ever live. He said these words, as both a great goal scorer and passer, because he recognized what it meant to go for it. Gretzky understood he’d make mistakes.

He recognized he’d fail, fall down and have to get back up again.

Most significantly, “The Great One” knew if he never gave things a shot, he’d have to live with that awful feeling of regret. You know the feeling — where you’re suspended in a dreary thought purgatory, wondering, ‘What could have been?’

Go for it

Gretzky was talented beyond measure, and early on in his career, he was encouraged to become the young leader of the Edmonton Oilers and elevate his game to help make the players around him better. It paid off. Gretzky would go on to win four Stanley Cup (NHL hockey championships) with the Oilers during the 1980s.

I’ve took this lesson with me everywhere I’ve gone. That simple gift meant so much to my friend and it meant a lot to me, as well. It did so much to dash fear, hesitancy and indecisiveness. Three things that can destroy us and halt progress. Indecision and fear, in particular, will stop us from ever achieving the biggest dreams and goals in our lives.

If you “play” with the mindset that making mistakes is OK, that giving things a shot is the right way to go, then you’ll always live with greater confidence. You’ll see positive results. While it helps having a coach, teacher or friend there to help you, that person won’t always be there. Once you’ve matured into the young woman or man you are, you’ll know that making that decision, versus not making one at all, is what it’s all about.

We went on to have a very successful season that year. We learned that mistakes were OK. That we’d always fail, always miss out if we never gave things a shot. It’s always better to give things a shot.

Where are you?

Maybe you’re on the fence right now about something. Is it fear of asking out the woman of your dreams? Indecision around whether to accept or decline a job? Could be you fear public speaking — or putting your design, writing or art out there for public consumption. Trust me when I tell you, you have to be willing to give it a shot.

There’s an odd comfort in fear. Fear leaves us trapped, but it oddly squashes future fear about giving things a shot. So we sometimes stay there. Stuck in a vicious cycle. When we look at things objectively, it’s foolish to live in fear. The reason we often do — why we don’t give things a shot — is because we often fear success. We fear the unknown — of becoming something bigger, greater and more amazing than we could ever imagine.

Don’t be that person who sits on the sidelines and never gets to know. Give it a shot. Shoot for the stars. Let this be your call to action to move forward with that big decision in your life that’s waiting for you.

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This article first appeared on Medium.