Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Losing



I hate losing. I don't think it's ever a good thing to be a sore looser, but I won't lie; I hate losing more than I like winning. It has always been this way with me, but I don't think it's a healthy attitude to have and I think it is representative of something much deeper in me. It's the whole reason I never really got into competitive sports even though I know that physically I could perform well. And just like all other obstacles I face, It's all in my head.

In one of my sales books that I've been r
eading I gained some insight into this phenomenon that has stifled my success for some time. Carl Lewis, arguably the greatest track and field athlete of all time and nine-time Olympic gold medalist, was and excellent example of this. After his last event in the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta, when he won the gold medal on his final attempt in the long jump, the sportscaster asked, "Mr. Lewis, what were you thinking about just before you jumped?" As it turned out, Carl Lewis wasn't thinking about medals, money or any of the accolades that would come from a victory. Instead, he said his primary motivation was that his family was in the stadium and he didn't want to disappoint them by losing his final Olympic event.

The fear of failure is a powerful influence. Imagine what would happen if a pack of German Shepherd dogs were actually ch
asing the Olympic athletes down the track toward the finish line. That would certainly motivate me to run faster. People are motivated differently -and while some are motivated by a positive reward, some are motivated by negative aversion. While the book remains neutral on whether or not being motivated by positive or negative results are arbitrarily "good" or "bad," in my personal situation, I think being motivated by German Shepherds is damaging to me. I won't compete against someone else in something if I think I will loose or that there is a good possibility of failure.

I don't play video games for this reason. Video games are designed for you to loose several times over and over again until you can get a little bit further in the game and then you loose and loose again until you get a little bit further and so on until ultimately you conquer the game. Loosing the first time or two is aversion enough to keep me from playing again.


Every morning in my office at work we sit around a big table and have our sales meeting. Half-way through the meeting we clear the table, put up a little net, and play a half hour to forty five minute ping-pong tournament. I always loose. Not because I can't be good at ping-pong, but because I don't want to loose so badly that I psych myself out to the point of loosing on the first round. Then I sit there and watch all of my coworkers play and have a good time for the remainder of the meeting while I sit and feel sorry for myself. I know, it sounds lame, but this has always been the case with me. Don't get me wrong, I don't let it ruin my day, but it's something important to note about myself.

In terms of my sales it also affects me. I have done alright this summer in terms of sales. It can really be a struggle at times. Though I am not at all where I hoped I would be in terms of my personal sales goals, I am in the top 40 percent of my office. The company will periodically throw out sales incentives that are really great. Some of this summer's incentives have been money, I-Pods, Nintendo Wiis, digital camera, Skull Candy headphones, and a cruise. I have won nothing. I've come close a couple times. But I didn't win anything while virtually every one of my coworkers have won at least something. I think the most I've won is $11. I don't want to be bitter about it, but why can't I win something sometime?

How did I get this way? It's not like I enjoy loosing, but I think it's the aftermath of several years of self doubt and personal struggle. I am confident in most things nowadays. I'm not scared of strangers or knocking on someone's door and selling them my product. I'm not afraid of performing on stage or speaking my mind. I enjoy challenge and pushing myself into new experiences. But when it comes to competition, I get very uncomfortable. I believe if I can change my loser's paradigm to a winners paradigm, I will win every time. But I don't know how to change that. Perhaps it's just a matter of forcing myself into the uncomfortable competition and hanging on until I get used to loosing. Regardless, at least I recognize this about myself. Acknowledgment is the first step I suppose.

3 comments:

Forester said...

I don't think you need to learn to deal with losing,you seem to know how to do that pretty well. Instead, you need to learn how to not be so competitive. I'm the opposite of you when it comes to competition. Playing a game for competition sake holds no meaning for me. I play to enjoy playing and winning is a bonus. If you can calm down and not be so competitive, maybe you will be able to start winning.

playasinmar said...

Did you see Little Miss Sunshine?

This all reminds me of the dad from that movie. He's rough on everyone (including himself) but he's not a bad guy.

He's actually a pretty good dad and the "refusal to lose" decisions end up saving the day.

GeckoMan said...

Practice makes perfect, even in losing. So you've had a lot of practice lately, huh?! But it doesn't sound like you're any better at it.

I think Forester is right, being a good loser happens when you're not all wigged out by losing. Games help us practice. If you treat life like a game, placing less consequence on final outcome and more emphasis on learning and enjoying along the way, you may transition more into winning.