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Redefining Winning & Failing

Sunday, 2 April 2017

I feel that within our culture, media and society there exists an expectation of what winning looks like.  It might be the big salary; the athletic body; the flawless complexion; the widely popular and liked personality.  It seems as though many of us adopt these beliefs and judge ourselves in the absence of taking the time to really consider what our OWN beliefs and values are for winning.

So here’s my take on what winning means to me.  It’s what I’ve been discussing with my four students who are currently preparing for their Black Belt grading.

From an early age we mostly adopt the beliefs of our environment (family and friends) where many were raised to believe that winning means “coming first place”.  This belief leaves us with very little scope to feel happy with a negative result.  This all or nothing belief features heavily in small groups and especially one-on-one competition.  If we are not in first place we must be a failure.

But what if we redefine our beliefs so that winning means continual improvement; doing better than the last time.  This belief is already common place in large scale running events such as the London Marathon which has 125,000 entries.  At the end of the race you don’t see 124,999 runners upset because they didn’t win.  Distance runners beliefs are based around improvement by beating their Personal Best time.  You too can adopt this belief into all areas of your life.  Your beliefs are not fixed in concrete.  They might feel solid and unchangeable but they are not.

I choose to believe that winning means being a better I was last week

This positive belief leads to continual self-improvement because you are experiencing regular micro wins.  By focusing on yourself, and not others, you really do have the best possible opportunity to achieve you goals.

Coach Tony Blauer, the founder of the SPEAR System that we teach at the studio, said something that has stuck with me since I first head it.  He said, "the clarity which you can define something will determine it's usefulness to you."  I mention this because we I want to take about comparison and self-judgement.  When I discussed this blog with my wife she challenged me that the words meant the same things.  I agree that they are very similar but the subconcious underlying tone of each word is definately different. 

Abraham Lincoln said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  As great a man as old Abe surely was, I don’t entirely agree with this.  For me the word comparison means an emotionless scientific and logical view of the facts.  With comparison we can seek out others with a better skillset than our own.  We can study them and see if we can identify elements of their training that we can adopt to gain improvement ourselves. It allows us to model and replicate the success of others.

In contrast, judgement carries with it a definate negative association.  I think of the passing of a court sentence and there is the implication of being locked in a closed unchanging loop.  Do not spend your time judging yourself against others.  You’ll rarely be happy.  Work hard, enjoy the process, record your results and focus on get better than you were last week.

Let me start to wrap this up by saying that the desire to be the very best is a good thing.  We should foster and encourage this in our kids.  A mediocre life is waste.  Learning to manage risk and failure through competition is great life experience.  However, we must be sure that the desire to be the best is always placed second to the desire to enjoy the process.  Love what you do, have fun, work hard and the success with come.

I read recently in Mark Devine's book "The Way of the Navy Seal" about a great mindset principle he calls “The Three Fs” or “Fail Forward Fast”.  Do it; learn from it; do it again; over and over and over.  By redefining winning, and through that failing, you will improve infinitely faster than sitting thinking "but what if I fail?".  Why do you think Nike's motto is "Just Do It!"

Craig