Be A Loser
Growing up I would say that I was a pretty big loser. Not in a macro sense but certainly in the micro. When I was 10 years old I weighed 180 lbs. For context, today I’m 40 years old and I weigh 200 lbs. Being that heavy and that young made sports very difficult for me. But I loved sports and challenging myself physically, so I always wanted to participate. This meant losing and losing often.
I sat and watched from the sidelines often while my peers played basketball or touch football in PE class. When I did get opportunities to play I often found myself getting embarrassed by someone on the opposing team. I remember scoring a basket for the other team during basketball. I fumbled the football many times. I dropped easy fly balls in right field while playing baseball. I watched while the females in my classes did pull-ups for the physical fitness test and meanwhile I couldn’t do one. I remember how bad my lunges burned as I tried (and failed) to keep up with the other kids whenever we had to do the mile run in PE class. It was crazy demoralizing.
Of course, I wanted to do better which is why I kept trying, but in all the losing I had to find the victories in order to be willing to move forward. This leads me to something that I developed early on in life. I began to realize that I could handle failure, loss, and disappointment in any endeavor as long as I knew I tried my best. It’s such a simple idea but it gave me so much peace in the midst of so much disappointment. Whenever I would have an embarrassing moment during PE or an embarrassing moment at school, I made sure that I didn’t allow the previous day’s embarrassment to run me off or cause me to avoid similar situations. I definitely cried myself to sleep on many nights but the next day I’m showing up for more.
My effort in an activity was the only thing that I could control. I was horrible at using my words or my physicality to defend myself, but I refused to let the bullying and the ridicule cause me to turn away from the activities I wanted to participate in. It was a small moral victory that I could hold on to.
The Secret to Winning Is In The Losing
I see so many people today struggle with the idea of failing at something and so they don’t try. I’ve heard many people talk of starting their own business’s or starting a new exercise regimen but they don’t begin because they don’t want to experience failure and all the difficult emotions that come along with it. I understand. However, as a kid, in a very practical sense I learned how to put ‘shots on goal’. Simply put, the more times you aim at and shot at something, the more likely you are to hit it. This is the simple truth that people don’t realize when they stall action due to fear of failure. Every time you start and fail at anything, it’s a data point. Encoded in the data is the knowledge needed for success.
Again, a lesson that became clear for me early on was the fact that when I gave things my full effort I could be at peace with the results no matter what they were. This character trait has paid massive dividends in my willingness to let go of things that have run their course and initiate new things that align with the changes in my value system. I got an Engineering Degree and when I started working as an Engineer I absolutely hated it. Sure, I had spent 5 years killing myself to get the degree and yes from a societal standpoint I was very successful. However, I was miserable and if quitting makes me look like a failure to others, than so be it. I tried as hard as I could and that process had run it’s course. On the flip side, now being a speaker and a writer, someone will say again that I am a failure because I haven’t made massive sums of money like I would have made with Engineering. Again, so be it. I am happy and I’ve been giving this process my best since 2015. In all this I have become incredibly self-aware and intuitive about why people struggle in life. My ‘failures’ have produced valuable knowledge of self and the world.
I’m inoculated to the negative emotions associated with trying and failing because I did so much of it as a child. I realized then that how I approach the process is so much more important than what the process produces.
Now, go and fail because your character needs it!