In recent years I’ve had the great privilege of visiting an alternative high school that serves the neediest and most challenged of students. One particular encounter with a high school principal—a man who had given his life to reach and impact disadvantaged youth—left me inspired and encouraged. His stories of the ups and downs of working with that student population reminded me of the unforgettable introduction to “ABC’s Wide World of Sports,” when the narrator would dramatically announce, “…the thrill of VICTORY and the agony of DEFEAT.” Seeing a homeless student with a violent gang background graduate from high school—victory! Seeing another go back to the streets—defeat.
No matter where our life path takes us, we’ll experience victories and defeats. Whether it’s sports, contests, career, dating, education, or business ventures, you win some and you lose some. Most of us don’t have too much difficulty with the winning part.
But sometimes, we don’t win. But does this mean that we’ve technically lost? No! Many of our “losses” prepare us for our victories later on. They can be a major stepping stone—that is, if we choose to learn from our defeats.
Vince Lombardi of Green Bay Packer fame used to say that winning “is the only thing.” Famed basketball coach John Wooden, on the other hand, simply asked his players to play their best, and that was good enough for him. Although he set a very high bar for his players, he was more process driven than outcome driven.
I’m probably more in John Wooden’s camp (despite growing up 20 miles from Green Bay!). Winning may be an important goal, but I don’t believe we’re losers if we don’t finish in first. The key is to learn from a defeat and use it as input for the next practice and for future strategy. Want a couple tips for making this happen, just in case? Try these:
Don’t see a defeat as an “end all.” In most cases, it’s not the end of the road. Always be on the lookout for new opportunities, new relationships, etc. Something better may be around the corner! Consider if it’s a teachable moment and a catalyst for personal growth. As Helen Keller said, “A bend in the road is not the end of the road…unless you fail to make the turn.”
Be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Change is not always a bad thing.
Accept that you are not always right and you won’t always have the best strategy. Seek out advice and perspective from others.
Approach situations with the mindset that you’re going to give it your all. You can’t be dissatisfied when you’ve done your very best!
It pays to humbly celebrate your victories and gain and grow from your defeats. You’ll be positioned you to do better the next time (perhaps with a better outcome!), and it will take some of the sting out of your losses! Helen Keller had a great perspective.
How have you handled your victories and losses? Do you view a short-term loss as a learning experience?? Are you satisfied with the outcome if you did your best?
We all know of brilliant, straight-A students who barely even study. The other 99% of us mere mortals have to earn it the hard way! It might be easy to conclude that most successful people owe it to raw talent and brilliance, but that’s rarely the case. Usually, other factors like commitment, focus, discipline, and a winning attitude have an even greater impact.
Most things in life aren’t handed to us on the proverbial silver platter—success being one of them. People who do well at what they do—whether it’s academics, sports, art, music, business, a trade, or a hobby—generally have these things common. They overcome challenges and opposition, and they do it through planning, practice, and perseverance.
I can’t think of a better illustration of this than the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. The team of collegiate athletes was gathered randomly from around the nation under the leadership of Coach Herb Brooks, who developed a brutal training regimen and a strategy to win.
The prospects didn’t look good. They were dominated by the Soviet team in an exhibition game by a score of 10-3. But, that didn’t deter them. They tied Sweden, upset perennially strong Czechoslovakia, and proceeded to defeat Norway, Romania, and West Germany. There was just one problem. The next stop was another crack at the Soviet team, and the players were haunted by their previous humiliation. Nonetheless, Coach Brooks was relentless, challenging the team to do their best when it counted.
Amazingly, the U.S. scored the upset of the ages, defeating the Soviets 4-3 in a win dramatically captured in the 2004 film Miracle. As one of the millions of Americans who watched it live, I can honestly say that the last ten minutes of the game were the slowest 600 seconds in all of eternity! They went on to win the gold medal game over Finland, and rallied the country like (in my opinion) no other sporting team in history.
When it comes to achieving your goals, remember that you, too, can overcome great odds by applying the same 3 P’s the 1980 U.S. hockey team did: planning, practice, and perseverance. What good would it have done for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team to skate out onto the ice without the practice and grit to compete? Unfortunately, many people live that way—and they live frustrated, underperforming their potential.
They (mistakenly) believe they “deserve” success they’ve not earned. They show up the first day of a new job expecting the corner office and the respect of the CEO when they’ve not made the sacrifices necessary to deserve either. They resent not receiving the career opportunities they’d like or the salary they think they deserve—when they’ve not put in the study, effort, or commitment needed to earn those rewards. We call this mindset one of entitlement—and it’s becoming a pervasive issue in our society.
Don’t let this attitude mark you. When you set your mind to something—whether it’s academic studies, a job, a sport, or anything else, I encourage you to do it with intentionality and excellence. Remember the adage, “Plan, practice, and persevere to succeed.” Doing this will give you the best chance in life and build great character along the way.
Is there a young person in your life who needs a reminder he or she is not “entitled” to success? Challenge him or her, “If planning, practice, and perseverance are keys to achieving goals, how would you rate yourself in each of these areas? Think back on a goal you didn’t achieve. How might the outcome have been different?” These are good discussions to have. Share your results with us by commenting below; we’d love to hear your stories.