FORTUNE -- So You Fail, So What. That's the title of a Fortune cover story that I wrote two decades ago. The story still has legs (readers ask me about it to this day) and is more relevant now than ever: The global flow of ideas and money enables anyone to innovate, test, fail, pivot and try again.
If you haven't failed, in fact, you may not be a leader at all. That's what a cast of star athlete-businesswomen said during Playing to Win, a live webcast that I moderated for Ernst & Young on Monday.
"A great champion deals with setback with a comeback," said Donna de Varona, who was a gold medal Olympic swimmer in the 1960s and knows from experience. De Varona set a world record at age 13, lost it at 15, got it back at 16 and retired at age 17 because back then, little funding existed for girls like her to train and compete in sports.
So, de Varona left the pool and went to Congress to push for Title IX, the 1972 legislation that changed the game for women by requiring equal opportunity for girls to pursue sports and other activities in any educational institution that receives public funding.
"Setbacks are just learning experiences," added Beth Brooke, EY's global vice chair for public policy, who led the 2013 creation of the firm's Women Athletes Business Network to help elite performers in sports pivot into business. "It's not the winning that teaches you how to be resilient. It's the setback. It's the loss," Brooke explained. "It's the knowledge that if I work harder, if I practice longer, if I'm more disciplined, I will do better tomorrow."
Summer Sanders, who won two gold medals for swimming in the 1992 Olympic Games, agrees: "If you don't fail, you don't know who you really are at your worst moment."
Here's a short video clip of the EY conversation. Click here to watch the full 75-minute webcast, which also included tennis legend Martina Navratilova, Brazilian swimming champion Fabiola Molina, British track champ Dame Kelly Holmes and Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management and founder of the 30% Club, which aims to make UK corporate boards at least 30% female by 2015.
Billie Jean King won the first of her 20 Wimbledon titles in 1961, at age 17, and has returned to the ivy-covered club every year since. These days, King's passion is business, running World TeamTennis with her partner, Ilana Kloss. King took a break from this year's Wimbledon to come to Fortune Most Powerful Women: London—and scored a point about how to win by calling the daughters of Facebook (FB) VP Carolyn MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 8, 2013 10:56 AM ET
We've come a long way (baby!) in women's confidence to achieve as well as men.
On the heels of Sheryl Sandberg's best-selling Lean In comes a new study, "Women, Power & Money" that finds 70% of Gen Y women describe themselves as "smart," vs. just 54% of Gen Y men.
That's a stunning level of confidence that young women can take to the bank. Compared to the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers before them, Gen Y MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 2, 2013 11:16 AM ET
"The Man Who Couldn't Speak," about Intel executive Sean Maloney, is one of the most rewarding stories I've done in my 27 years at Fortune. I met an amazing man, got to know an extraordinary family, and came to understand the heroic feat of recovering from a stroke.
I didn't have enough space in the current issue to tell the full story of this man who had beaten the odds already MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 26, 2011 1:55 PM ET
Last Monday evening, in the backyard of her Silicon Valley home, Marissa Mayer stood before a crowd of 200 fellow Googlers and their significant others, fed them roast quail and herb-crusted roast bison loin, and feted them for going mobile.
"We walked more than once around the earth at the equator—or 16.7 times around the moon," Mayer declared at the award celebration for the fourth annual "100 Mile Month Challenge."
This is MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 29, 2011 1:06 PM ET
Besides her 1,071 wins, 18 Final Fours, and eight national championships--the stuff that makes Pat Summitt the winningest coach, male or female, in NCAA basketball history--there is the stuff of her leadership. Measured against anyone else in sports or anywhere, Summitt stands as one of the most formidable and focused leaders you will ever meet.
Last night, after the University of Tennessee Lady Vols coach made the stunning announcement that she MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 24, 2011 3:03 PM ET
Warren Buffett and Sandra Day O'Connor walk onto a fairway...
Mark Zuckerberg tees off against Biz Stone....
Bill Gates plays Arnold Schwarzenegger.
These are among the 32 fantasy match-ups in the Fab Foursome Bracket Challenge, a new app that Golf Magazine launched on Facebook today.
Golf Magazine publisher Dick Raskopf says that his group came up with the app after actor Will Ferrell, who appeared on the cover of Golf's big fall issue last MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 13, 2011 3:01 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
Elizabeth McKee Gore works at Ted Turner's UN Foundation and oversees Global Partnerships there.
She told me the cool story about creating Nothing But Nets five years ago. The UN Foundation wanted to help cure the world of malaria. Her bosses charged her to develop a strategy to build a public campaign.
She came up with a program called the UN Foundation Campaign to End Malaria. And she commissioned a MOREPatricia Sellers - Apr 25, 2011 11:58 AM ET
by Patricia Sellers
In this weekend's New York City Marathon, thousands of runners will be sweating it out for hundreds of causes and charities. One of those diehard do-gooders: Unilever (UL) CEO Paul Polman.
Polman, whose global brands include Lipton and Hellman's and Dove, stopped by Fortune's offices this morning to tell us about his weekend plans. This Saturday night, he'll be hosting a pre-marathon pasta dinner (with his company's MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 5, 2010 2:36 PM ET
My friend Sam Courtney turns 21 tomorrow. I didn't go to his celebration in Washington this weekend, but I sent some advice--from John Wooden. As I told Sam, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, who died on Friday at age 99, carried these words from his father wherever he went:
"Be true to yourself. Make each day a masterpiece. Help others. Drink deeply from good books. Make friendship a fine art. Build MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 7, 2010 12:07 PM ET
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