Skills that Last a Lifetime – “WOBBLE”

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Michael Jordan, Hall of Fame Basketball Player

In 1978, a young high school sophomore in North Carolina tried out for the varsity basketball team and failed to make the cut. He went home, locked himself in his bedroom and cried. His dad, realizing the NBA potential of his young future all-star, picked the phone to let the coach know in very colorful language what a horrible decision the coach had made. Rather than fight this irate parent, the coach relented, and the rest is history. . . Well, actually not. The story is true up until Michael Jordan locking himself in his room and crying. The real story is a picture of resilience, determination, and grit as he overcame this failure to become a household name.

We are examining Qi Skills proposed by Dr. Laura Jana. This blog will address the “WOBBLE” Skill. [For an introduction to Dr. Laura Jana’s Qi Skills, please visit the introductory blog in this series]

Dr. Jana describes a common element of our current parenting culture as “a culture that is caught up in the need to protect our children at all costs and from all forms of failure and upset, whether physical or emotional” (Jana, 2017). I can certainly imagine the anguish Michael Jordan’s parent felt when their son was behind a locked door crying. If they made that call to the coach, certainly history would have vindicated their belief in the potential of their son. Right?

We will never know; however, we do know that Michael Jordan used that experience motivate himself to a nearly unprecedented work ethic. “Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it. That usually got me going again.” Just like the children’s toy, Weebles, Michael Jordan wobbled, but bounced back up, however, stronger and more motivated through the experience.


For parents and teachers, it can be heart-breaking to watch a young person fail (and this does not mean that we do not provide appropriate safeguards). However, the temptation is to protect our children from every obstacle they might face. Some have called these snowplow parents, the “overprotective ones who ‘plow’ onwards before their child, removing everything in life that might be a potential obstacle before their child encounters them” (Davey, 2017). Would we have observed the amazing play of Michael Jordan, if this failure had not occurred?

Consider the life skills he demonstrated:


I am thankful that Michael Jordan admitted that he cried. He was embarrassed, disappointed, and angry, but he did not stay in his room. He bounced back.


This is where the problem-solving of WOBBLE is found. With the encouragement of others, Michael Jordan developed a plan. He made the most of the opportunities he did have on the Junior Varsity team to hone his skills and focused on strength training to prepare for the next level.


Psychologist Angela Duckworth defines grit as the combination of passion and perseverance for long-term goals. Throughout life, young people face setbacks, reevaluate, and press on. Essentially, this represents the Qi Skills of “ME” and “WILL” working together with “WOBBLE” to forge through challenges.

Moving from interest to passion

“Interests are triggered by interactions with the outside world. The process of interest discovery can be messy, serendipitous, and inefficient. This is because you can’t really predict with certainty what will capture your attention and what won’t…Without experimenting, you can’t figure out which interests will stick, and which won’t. (Duckworth, 2016)

I invite you to review this previous post (Follow Your Dream! Follow Your Passion!). It provides suggestions that help young people discover the interests where they can engage their passion.


Davey, G. (2017, May 23). Helicopter, Snowplow, and Bubble-Wrap Parenting. Retrieved from Psychology Today:

Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Jana, L. (2017). The toddler brain. Boston: Da Capo Press.

Newsweek. (2017, September 17). MICHAEL JORDAN DIDN’T MAKE VARSITY—AT FIRST. Newseek.