I wanted it. Wanted. It was right there, in the palm of my hand.

In a past job search, I’d stumbled across a dream job. A company I loved, with a mission I was passionate about, looking for someone who did exactly what I do. It was perfect.

I was so excited, I immediately applied. Well, not immediately, because they had a tricky first hurdle. You had 45 minutes of videos to watch that translated into 6 tests about the content you had just watched. Miss any answers, and you didn’t even get to apply. But I wanted this. I studied hard during that 45 minutes, and nailed the tests. For that, I got to apply.

There were another 5 hurdles of that sort along the way. Two months later, and by the time I cleared each one, I came to find that I was one of two candidates left, out of the 200+ that had cleared that first hurdle. I was nervous, but knew I was also a ringer for the role. I went into an interview with the company founder and the remainder of the C-suite with a lot of confidence. Three hours later, I left the interview barely able to contain myself, it had gone so well. I spent the drive home figuring out what I wanted first steps in the new role to be.

They called me two hours later. An even better sign, as there was no way they’d even had time to interview candidate #2 before giving me a call. This was… In. The. Bag. The CMO was on the other end of the line.

“Mike, you blew us away…”

Did I mention in the bag?

“The answers today, the presentation you gave last week, unreal, man…”

I may have been getting cocky at this point. He went on effusively for nearly 90 seconds, with my ego getting dangerously overinflated, before he said an incongruous word…


But? What but?

Turns out they thought the other person even better for the role. They’d liked me immensely, but the other someone had cleared the bar even further. In the next ten seconds, I quickly realized I wasn’t being proposed to, I was being broken up with. I’d have paid a lot to have heard the difference in my voice after that ten seconds, as I tried hard to stay as upbeat and cheerful as I’d been when I entered the call. I failed miserably in that effort. Looking back now, the shift might have been funny to hear, once the sting of the moment went away. We ended the call within a few minutes, with me wishing them luck with the choice. Between the ears, I was simply seeing and hearing a lot of white noise. As embarrassing as it still is to admit, the unexpected news had caught me so off guard I shed a few tears after hanging up before getting my sh… shtuff back together. I could taste that victory. It was right there. I wanted it so damned much.

It truly sucks to get so close to something you want so badly, only to see it narrowly slip through your fingers. You can’t always get what you want.

Today marks the first day of your Denver Nuggets offseason after narrowly missing the playoffs for the second year running. The ninth seed is the NBA’s worst place to be, not realizing postseason revenue, nor a decent chance at a high draft pick. It was tough to miss the playoffs last year, not knowing if the team was eliminated until the last couple games of the season. As tough as that was, this season was doubly so, with the same disappointment coming in the closing seconds of overtime in the 82nd game. And did I mention that OT came because of a big gap you closed at the end of regulation? That your improbable finish was nearly capped off with an improbable finish? All the more painful because…

  • One more win has you in the playoffs today.
  • One more timely point has you in the playoffs today.
  • One less turnover…
  • One more free throw…

That close. Just one more.

The first taste from that cup is pretty bitter. Are there a thousand things to bemoan from the way this season went? You bet there are. Just like there are a thousand things to celebrate. Labeling this season a success or failure depends deeply on your perspective, but it’s not terribly hard to understand the other opinion in this case, barring an unwillingness to accept that others might see things differently than you do. Whichever side of that equation you land on, you were probably deeply disappointed by last night’s outcome if you bleed Nuggets blue. When I started hearing that white noise again, I remembered a favorite quote:

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

-Winston Churchill

The Nuggets team and organization would do well to hold fast to those words, as there will certainly be enough white noise from Nuggets Nation in the near future, of both a pessimistic and optimistic variety. But if last night stung as much as it looked like it did for the Nuggets, every last person involved should take this hurt personally, and use it to drive their behavior for next season. As much as it sucked to lose that game, you might be better off for the deeper sting. Had Denver managed this spectacular comeback, consisting of seven wins in a row (with three overtime victories in the mix), they might have thought some of the behaviors that dug the hole in the first place weren’t as crucial to fix as they certainly are. That the only sure way to getting what you want (the postseason ending in a win) is to play the first 75 the way you played the last seven.

Let’s hope that amongst whatever changes the offseason brings, one of the key shifts is in how hard the team is thinking about April in October. You can’t always get what you want. But sometimes, you get what you need.

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