Sticky Success

2 min read

Anyone who follows professional basketball knows the name Kobe Bryant. 

He’s the name you obnoxiously yell when attempting a fadeaway in a pickup game.


Kobe is well-known for obvious reasons. He is third on the all-time NBA scoring list. He played in 18 All-Star games. He won five championships. 

But there’s one stat that people have a tendency to gloss over: Kobe has missed the most shots of any NBA player in history.

He missed a record 13,766 shots during his career.

Yet, none of us seem to care. We admire his successes and ignore his failures.

The older I get, the more I have noticed this trend in other areas. When people succeed, their success tends to stick with them. When they fail, their failure tends to fall by the wayside.

J.K. Rowling received a dozen rejection letters for her first Harry Potter book.

Tom Brady has lost three Super Bowls.

Lebron has lost five NBA Finals. 

Steve Jobs has a list of failed tech ventures. The Apple Lisa. The Powermac g4 cube. The Apple III.

Yet, all of these people are defined by their successes, not their failures. I like to think of this phenomenon as sticky success.

When you succeed, that success sticks with you and propels you forward. You gain recognition. You receive more demand for your work. More opportunities. Failures, on the other hand, are largely ignored and forgotten.

I have applied this insight to my blogging habits.

Last summer I decided to start writing every day.

I don’t write a lot purely for the sake of quantity. I write a lot because I know that it’s the best way to produce one or two pieces of content worth sharing each week. The articles that are good will get shared. The ones that are mediocre will just be forgotten.

Over time, my writing will get a little better and my readership will slowly grow. The good articles will push me forward while the mediocre ones will just become irrelevant.

I think this approach can be applied to any field. 

Write more. Send more cold emails. Apply for more scholarships, more internships, more jobs, more freelance gigs. Try more side hustles, more business ventures, more blogging techniques.

Over time, you’ll rack up a list of failures as well as successes. Success will stick with you and help you advance. Failures will fall away.

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16 Replies to “Sticky Success”

  1. So important to not get paralyzed by perfectionism. Just wanted think if any of those successful people you cited had stopped trying at their first failure! Nice post, Zach.

  2. Very valuable! I reckon this one will be shared since I’m my book it’s a success! Another example is Brett Favre; I heard he threw the most interceptions (maybe Peyton Manning now I’m not sure). But both are still in the HOF.

  3. So important to remember the failures. People ask me how I know how to do random things, and it’s because I just tried it, messed up a bunch of times, then figured it out.

    And I always wondered why you posted every day! Now I know–you’re just testing things 🙂

    1. That’s funny, people ask me the same things – how I learn so many random skills. Just being willing to fail a lot is a huge advantage in life. If you’re comfortable with not doing something right the first time, you’ll learn so much faster than everyone around you. And yepp, I find that writing every day also builds up my creative muscles. Ideas come to me a lot more easily than they used to 🙂

  4. Great perspective, thanks for sharing it. I have noticed your more frequent posting schedule, and think it’s a great idea. Hope it it paying dividends for Four Pillar Freedom!

    Another line I’ve heard that fits with your theme is “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” I’ve seen that one attributed to both Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan.

  5. “Sticky success” – I like it! 🙂

    This idea of failures falling behind and successes being naturally sorted to the top became clear and really actionable for me after reading your, “You Are The Only One Tracking Your Failures” article. Thanks for that! 🙂

  6. First step is the hardest one…I have wanted to keep up with my blog but other than making the time, the concerns of what other people even find values freeze me up sometimes. I can draw some encouragement from your post. Thanks much

  7. Hi Zach,

    The morale of the story is “Keep trying, don’t give up and the success will eventually come”.

    Keep your posts coming. I am looking forward to them.


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