When I was growing up, there was a TV show called the Wide World of Sports. They would show athletic events at the beginning of each show, and the announcer would say, “The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.” The picture that I can’t seem to get out of my head is the skier going down the giant slalom and taking a terrible fall. I always wondered what happened to that guy. How would you like THAT to be your claim to fame? Can you imagine him at a dinner party? “Yeah, I was the guy that nearly killed himself on the slalom every week.” How embarrassing would that be?
Think about famous people you have known that had great victories…and then agonizing defeats. Politicians like Richard Nixon (Watergate) and Bill Clinton (Monica Lewinsky). Athletes like Mark McGuire and Lance Armstrong (both caught doping). Business leaders like Bernie Madoff and Kenneth Lay, Chairman of Enron (both guilty of scamming). And don’t get me started on all the famous preachers that have fallen. They are too numerous to count.
We have all known to some degree both sides of that coin, haven’t we? Obviously we have probably not had that degree of press, but still, we have seen victories, and we have seen defeats. The examples listed above were self-inflicted wounds that were finally made public and the truth came out in the end. Sometimes, we have done that in our personal lives, and sometimes it has been in our professional lives. I know that I have shot myself in the foot more than a few times in both arenas. I wish we could have do-overs, but unfortunately, we cannot change the past. All we can do is learn from it and move on.
The great thing about life is that we get to look forward to changing the future. The thrill of victory is sweet because we have tasted defeat. We know the pain, the agony, the embarrassment of losing. Nobody likes to lose, yet it is a part of life. It is part of the give and take. It is part of the circle that brings us around to victory.
Is there a way to shorten the loss cycle and have more victories? Well, if you ask a coach, he will tell you:
- Master the basics (Vince Lombardi, “This is a football.”)
- Have a game plan (write out your goals and strategy)
- Learn from your mistakes (watching game films and evaluate what went wrong)
- Adapt to the competition (if your strategy is not working…change it)
- Prepare before the game begins (conditioning, studying, memorizing)
- Manage the losses that come and keep them in perspective for the season (a loss does not make you a loser)
- Don’t cheat (the truth will come out eventually)
- Value people. Relationships matter (your team, your company, your family)
Whether it is your personal or your professional life you want to address, my hope is that your Win/Loss record improves. That will only happen when we take responsibility for our actions, learn from our mistakes, humble ourselves, and value people. May you taste the “Thrill of Victory,” and may your defeats be few and far between.