How Losing Taught Me to Win
No one likes to lose and I am no different. I grew up playing sports, lots of them, like three sports in high school and one year of college volleyball. However, I’m not sure you would call my sports career successful in the traditional sense.
In high school, the best team record we ever had was 10 – 10. I ran track for four years. In that time, I won one race and that was because there were only two people in it. In college, I did manage to make it onto the volleyball team, but out of the 18 girls on the team, I was definitely the last person off the bench. In fact, when I went into the game, they called me Rudy. (For anyone not familiar with this term, you need to see the movie Rudy about a college football player that only played one game in four years.)
I did get to travel with the volleyball team the year they made it to the final eight in the NCAA Division III tournament, but I broke my foot three weeks prior to the start of the season, so I went as a manager. The following year, I didn’t make the team at all.
I was a decent player in two sports but, outside of my small hometown, I was average.
But I don’t regret a single loss. I don’t regret playing basketball the season we went 2 – 18. I don’t regret the hours I spent running, only to go to the track meet and have to remind the guys setting up the hurdles that I wasn’t done with my mile race yet.
I don’t regret it because it made me a better person.
Losing Taught Me Persistence
Failure taught me to never give up, to persist and persevere.
I learned that I can do hard things. I learned that failure doesn’t mean achievement isn’t around the next corner. I learned that achievement doesn’t always mean you win the prize, the trophy, or the title.
Through failure, I learned that I can admit defeat but I don’t have to accept it if accepting means giving up.
Non-sports story this time – The Sound of Music is my favorite movie. It’s been my favorite movie since I was 9-years-old. I have auditioned for the stage production four times at the ages of 13, 17, 21 and…two years ago. I wasn’t cast in a production until my fourth attempt. My daughters were in the show with me and it was an absolute dream come true. Had I not auditioned that fourth time, it never would have happened.
Persistence has helped me through some difficult struggles. Even now, when I feel disappointed and discouraged, I remember the weeks after I was cut from the volleyball team. Through faith and prayer, I learned to move forward, a lesson that has helped me overcome challenges that are far worse than being cut from a team.
Losing Taught Me to Listen and Learn
Part of losing is accepting that we aren’t perfect and have to listen and learn to get better.
During all those, mostly unsuccessful, sports seasons I accepted a lot of correction from coaches. That’s what coaches do. It’s their job to tell you what you are doing wrong. I learned to not take constructive criticism too personally, which has served me well.
After I didn’t make the volleyball team, I began taking private voice instruction with a retired opera singer who had sung at the Metropolitan Opera for 10 years. She was tough, far tougher than any of my athletic coaches.
When she told me to make a correction she expected it to be made immediately. There was little room for error. Consequently, she was well known for making her students cry. She taught many of the vocal performance majors because she was very good. However, most of them did not like her because they thought she was mean.
I don’t know how I ended up assigned to her because I was not a vocal performance major, but we hit it off from the beginning. She still made me cry a couple of times, but no more than any other coach who knew I could do better. With her instruction, I built a firm vocal foundation on which to build my voice.
Losing taught me to win by being teachable.
Losing Taught Me to Win
I’ve listed a lot of failures in this post. However, when I look back and really analyze those losses, I think I might make a notch in the win column. In fact, I’m sure the wins outnumber the losses because they are the kind of wins that can’t be seen on a scoreboard.
When I got cut from the volleyball team, it was hard. I couldn’t talk about it without crying for eight years. I didn’t play volleyball for that long either. It was too painful.
In the meantime, I learned how to get through and survive failure. I was reminded that my identity had nothing to do with a team. I learned that life goes on. I learned that sometimes God has something different in mind.
I don’t play sports very often anymore, but I’ve gained far more than any winning record would have taught me.
I’m grateful that I learned to like working hard.
I’m grateful that I learned to push through pain.
I’m grateful that I learned to finish the race even when they’re putting up the hurdles.