When I was around 13 or 14 a kid in school said I was the biggest loser I had ever met.
I don’t remember what prompted it but I remember knocking him over a trashcan and telling him if he didn’t stop messing with me I was going to try rip his head from his neck with my teeth.
Ok, that last line might not be entirely accurate, it is hard to remember things that happened decades ago with the perfect recollection some people claim.
What I am certain of is that I was this boy had been messing with me and his refusal to listen to my requests to find something else to do.
And I remember sitting on the school bus on the way home trying to figure out why he called me a loser because I hated losing.
Yeah, I took his comment more literally than I should but when you are 13 or 14 years-old life can be more than a little confusing.
Was It Good Advice Or Bad?
I remember telling my paternal grandfather about that incident and how he talked about the importance of standing up to bullies.
He said I should never be afraid to defend myself and suggested that if this boy bothered me again I should hit him in the nose hard enough to make it bleed.
“He’ll think twice about picking on you when he is trying to stop his nose from bleeding.”
I never did find out whether it was good advice or not because the kid never bothered me again, or if he did I can’t remember any more.
Truth is I can’t even remember his name anymore, the only solid memory I have prior to the incident is how he only bothered me if other kids were around and he thought he could show off.
I suppose part of the reason things stick out for me is it helped change my approach to handling certain situations. I think prior to that sometimes I played not to lose.
Another way of looking at it would be to say that until then I was more afraid of getting hurt than I was of stopping the incident so if I said no and a kid didn’t stop bothering me I tried to avoid them.
But after that trash can incident I realized I really didn’t have to let those things happen and that if I needed to do more than say no I could.
Playing Not To Lose
Today I think of playing not to lose very differently than I did then.
Now I see it from the perspective of a father, a businessman and a person.
The father sees it as an obligation to teach my children not to be afraid to fail and not to allow people to take advantage of them.
The businessman and person perspectives are virtually identical because both standpoints recognize the importance to take a chance.
It is the understanding that growth and opportunity stem from a willingness to push beyond our comfort zones and to try something different.
If you ask me to provide more distinction between the two I would say I am usually willing to take on more risk on a personal level than business because many businesses can be unforgiving of mistakes.
But I would add that is not a hard and fast rule because it is not always applicable across the board. Some businesses are happy for their team to push the envelope so the trick is making sure you understand who you are working with/for.
Don’t Stop Playing Hard
A while back one of the guys I play basketball with asked me why I seemed a bit disengaged on the court and I just smiled at him.
I didn’t want to tell him how frustrated I was because my team wasn’t playing smart and they weren’t playing hard.
It was just a pickup game and no one receives awards, medals, paychecks or trophies for wins or losses there. We play because it is fun and we enjoy hanging out with each other.
Except I am not always good at turning off the desire to win and that irritation I get from losing.
It is funny when I think about that kid telling me I am a good loser because even though I know how to do it gracefully I still don’t like it.
Most nights when I am playing ball with the guys I really am just having fun but every now and then that competitive fire is lit and it makes me crazy to see guys approach the game like they don’t care.
When you play not to lose you let down your guard and you lose your edge. That doesn’t happen when you play to win.
There is a different feeling that comes when you lose while playing to win than when you play not to lose and then lose anyhow.
The Kind Of Life I Want To Lead
Playing to win isn’t about winning at Monopoly or dominating on the soccer field. It is not about being the valedictorian either.
Those things are nice but they are too restrictive for what I am thinking about.
It is the willingness to go the extra mile and to take an extra step. It is being open to listening to opportunity and then making an educated decision about whether to stop or continue.
Playing to win doesn’t mean you don’t stop thinking, it just means that you don’t let fear of failure and or uncertainty run your life.
For me, the biggest step I’ve taken in life to date is to give up work and be with the kids.
I faltered at the first hurdle when my employer persuaded me it wasn’t the right thing to do when my son was born.
But when the same employer made the same statement when my daughter was born I was ready not to let uncertainty rule me.
One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
It is good to hear how it is working out for you.
It is hard sometimes to take that first step out the door into uncertainty but so very often it is the only way to really figure out what is going to work or not.
I have to imagine the time you have with the kids now is going to be something that you miss later on. Very cool to have the time now.
A certain aggressiveness can help you in all phases of your life.