Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The real power over winning and losing

I was never a big Tito Ortiz fan.  He was a very polarizing character and fighter.  People either loved him or hated him.  

Ok, so maybe I'm using somewhat of an absolute there because I didn't hate him.  I just didn't care for him.  I generally rooted against him, and watched pay-per-views he was fighting in just hoping to see him get his ass kicked.

Which basically means he was doing his job as a fight promoter.  

However after one particular fight against Chuck Liddell, he was being interviewed and he made a very profound statement that changed my perception of him.

He got beat up pretty bad.  But in the interview, he said this about his performance.

"That was the best I could fight."  

I can't remember if that was his exact phrase, but it was something like that.

And I remember thinking, that was a very honorable thing to say.  But not only that, despite the fact that he got his ass whupped pretty bad, he didn't seem terribly upset after the fight.  

Now, I'm not Tito Ortiz.  I didn't stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, either.  I'm also not  a mind reader, or psychic.  However, what I got from his words, and his body language was this.

He could walk away from that loss, knowing he prepared as well as he possibly could, fight the very best fight he could, and find some peace in that.

And I think there's a very valuable and important lesson to take away there.  The same one I've tried to instill in my own kids as they have participated in sports, or anything they have tried to achieve.

You can't always be the best.  You can't always win.  You will come up short sometimes.  But don't fall short because you failed to do your best.  Don't fall short because your efforts were short.  

There's a massive difference in losing because someone else was just better on that day than you, and losing because you failed to prepare to the best of your ability.  I also think, and this is just my opinion, there's something hollow in winning when you know damn well in the back of your mind, that you cut corners or didn't prepare to the best of your abilities as well.  Generally speaking, that's called luck.  And luck is not a strategy for success.  

If you're just so damn awesome that you can half ass it in preparation for something and still win, then good for you.  But here's a reality check; that won't last.  At some point, you will fall short.  Possibly even to someone with less natural ability than you, because they simply outworked you.

Now the other reality is, unless your mom and dad gave you the genetics to compete at the very highest of levels, all the hard work in the world isn't going to vault you to the top of the athletic/business/whatever food chain.  

Which is why I detest that motto of "champions are made, not born."

I'm here to tell you that is a pile of horseshit.  If you want to compete in the Olympics, or be a world record holder in pretty much anything, your genetics are going to be the biggest factor in that.  And let's be clear about part of that.  People often limit "genetics" to physical attributes only.  When the other equation there is the mental and emotional make up that most champions have as well.  

Pretty much every guy with a starting position in division I college football has exceptional physical skills.  Things you cannot train for.  Yet only a small fraction of those guys will make it to the NFL, and in three years or less, most of them will have washed out.  

This isn't hard to figure out.  Every guy in the NFL is exceptionally gifted from a physical standpoint.  It's the guys that understand how to work, and have the mental and emotional capacity to excel in that environment that end up sticking.  

I'm going to pull this part out of my ass, more or less, but I also remember reading one time that most of the guys try out for BUD/S, the Navy SEAL indoctrination course, are in good enough physical shape to make it through.  So why is the wash out rate so high?  Why do so many ring the bell to signify that they quit?

Because people break mentally.  Emotionally.  I'm sure it's exceptionally difficult to wake up on a day in and day out basis, and be pushed to the limit in regards to what you're willing to absorb.  What your mental and emotional taxation limit is will eventually be snuffed out.  

As they say, the mind will give out long before the body will.

This ability transcends throughout every elite position you can possibly find in life.  From athletics to business.  I mean, that skinny-fat CEO who can't walk up a flight of stairs without having to rest for 10 minutes before he plops back down in his leather bound chair because he's so out of shape is still in possession of something that genetically, gives him an advantage.  Some mental, emotional, intelligence make up that is rare and exceptional.  

The raw materials have to exist of course, but as noted, there comes a point where the wheat get separated from the chaff.  Where the division I guy with a 4.2 40-yard dash gets told he's not good enough to make the team.  Or where the guy sitting in the cubicle gets told he's being released while the guy who was sitting across from him gets promoted.  

Now, this doesn't mean life is fair, and that in every damn situation you weren't good enough and suck ass.  As noted, Tito probably prepared the very best he could.  He fought the best fight he could fight.

And he lost.

Or did he?

I'm not sure we really lose if we can truly be introspective enough to look at who we are, how we prepare, how we conduct ourselves in the face of adversity, yet still fall short of what we were trying to accomplish.  Sure, there's a scoreboard up there.  There's a W/L column.  It's great for statistics.  But it's not the measuring stick for personal effort.  That is often a very intangible thing.  

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.  I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan

At the end of the day, there is still nobility in failing, falling short, and even losing.  But only so long as we know that we prepared to the best of our abilities.  That we fought the very best fight we could fight.  There's still honor there.  There's still strength to draw from if you know that you prepared to the very best of your abilities, but it wasn't enough.  

And the only way to fully know when your best wasn't good enough, is to fail enough times so that you clearly understand how much of yourself you have to empty out into something, and what all you have to give up in order to obtain and achieve that.  And even may not be enough.

A hard lesson in life to learn, is that sometimes our best isn't enough.  There will always be someone stronger, faster, bigger, smarter, richer, better looking, and has better taste in home decor, cologne, and fashion.  But our best effort will always be enough in regards to building our character, our strengths, our courage, and our resolve and ability to persevere.  It's the one thing we truly have control over that allows us to walk away from a statistical check in the "L" column and still retain some pride in who we are, and what we gave.  

And that's how we arrive at the very best version of who we want to be.  And there's no losing in that.

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  1. Powerful words, Paul. Well said.

  2. Powerful words, Paul. Well said.

  3. My grandma once told me "If you did it as good as you could, you couldn't have done it better".

    And in regards to genetics, I think most people are born to excel at something, but just never find that thing.

  4. Thank you, Paul - I needed that!

  5. Thank you, Paul - I needed this!

  6. Paul, thanks for the positive article at a most needed time. I'm seeing someone that is amazed by my positive outlook even in the face of probable risk/loss. They can't seem to comprehend what it takes to chalk up a loss and move on.