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Why Winning Doesn't Matter 😅


What is a “winner’s mindset,” and what does it take to be successful in sports or life? I have so many thoughts.

For today, I'll start with a story about my marathon-running client from 2015. This is a guy who ran many races over decades.

While doing his cat/cows on the floor, I remember him telling me:

“there’s no point in signing up for a race if you don’t train for it.”

You can show up to a race and do well, but if you did minimal prep and training, how can you take pride in your accomplishment?

“It’s not about the race itself,” he told me. “It’s about the process of training, growing, and improving. That’s the reason to sign up for the race.”

And no, I don’t have a perfect memory. I’m paraphrasing a bit.

I love this idea, because it puts the focus on YOU and what little you can control. (might be little, but it’s not insignificant). It emphasizes a long-term, sustainable approach and effort over outcome.

What separates a “winner” from a “loser” or 2nd/3rd/4th place? Often, it’s a slew of tiny uncontrollable variables. If your happiness, effort, and process are conditional on winning, that's a precarious way to live.


Does your process, progress, and growth disappear the moment you lose, or the second season ends? Of course not! You get to keep that, learn from it, and build on it moving forward – IF you choose to.

That’s what you have control over. Choosing to show up day after day, week after week. And when you’re consistent, you can start deciding HOW exactly you show up.

Striving for your best, being willing to learn and change and fail – this is what matters. If it brings you to victory, amazing!

If you fall short, it’s just one more input to learn from (same with winning).



PART TWO:



So above I made the case that winning doesn’t matter. More accurately, the process matters more than the outcome.

The desire to win can be great, especially if it inspires effort, support, and compassionate accountability (for teammates and ourselves).

That there are winners in sports, I think, is a good thing. I don’t believe everyone should get trophies or there shouldn’t be losers. Competition is an amazing thing.

Striving for something, and failing, can be a powerful motivator, teaching tool, or wake-up call. Striving and winning can be thrilling and positively reinforce effort.

But only if we connect our effort and healthy behavior to the winning.

The problem—to me—is the perpetuation of winning-at-all-costs attitude:

“I want to win more than anything, so it’s fine that I treat my teammates like shit. I’m just making them better. It’s fine that my mood and interaction with the world is entirely conditional on winning. That’s what MAKES me a winner.”

With no due respect, f*ck that. We all know people like that, and too often they're celebrated and emulated.




Now, I don’t claim to be a high-achiever or serial-winner. But anyone who’s competed with or against me can attest to my unconditional effort and intensity.

And importantly, I believe they’d say those two qualities don’t interfere with my ability to be honest, respectful, and to make my teammates better.

There was a period of time, 15+ years ago, when my own insecurities got the better of me. It wasn’t about winning, more about my own performance, and my inability to deal with feeling like a failure. I wasn’t always the best teammate then.

But I learned and I grew. I learned to pride myself on my training, preparation, and effort. To focus mostly on what I could control. And I grew into a better teammate and person.

The seeds for this growth were planted many years before.

Growing up, I remember my first little league team winning our first 8 or 9 games! Another year, we only won a couple. Both years, the coaches helped us improve and supported our effort over all else.

Then there was middle and high school football 🫣 Did you know it was my dream to play in the NFL?

There are 11 players on the field, and I was always the smallest, so there was only so much impact I could have. I trained hard, studied film and playbooks hard, and played like a much larger person.

We lost almost every game during my career. Unless I wanted to be miserable for years on end, I didn’t have a choice but to focus more on the process—my contribution and effort—than the outcome.

And damn did I love the process. I'm grateful for all the losing because it taught me to find so much joy in competing, training, and playing.

To summarize:

Your effort, growth, and ability to show up for yourself and others is what makes you a winner, regardless of the outcome.

Winning, and being a reliably decent person are not mutually exclusive.

And importantly, we all have different ways of expressing intensity and emotion, especially in highly competitive environments.

Expressing yourself with intensity doesn’t make you a sore loser or a bad winner. I think in-the-moment reactions are overly-policed in athletes.

Does that seem contradictory to some of my points? There's nuance in everything, friends.

Even winning 😉

Hope you have a wonderful day,

Brian


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