Success is Transformative
Unfortunately so is failure. A single memorable failure can influence the rest of our lives, giving us the impression that we’re losers. Ever wonder why some people constantly seem to fail at whatever they’re doing? According to Dr. Richard Ginsburg, author of Whose Game is it, Anyway?, a lifetime of success or failure can be triggered by a single event. We learn from failures, and we learn from success. The difference between the winners though and the losers among us is that the winners have been able to ignore their misses. And, the difference between winning and losing is so slim that all it can take sometimes is the right mental attitude to come out on top. It’s hard to believe, but our minds are fragile places. Without knowing it we determine the paths of our own lives with how we handle victory and defeat during childhood.
Winning Isn’t Everything:
We don’t have to win all the time, and our losses shouldn’t bother us. Take Peyton Manning for instance. He lost the Super Bowl yesterday. But, does anybody think he’s a loser? More importantly, does he think he’s a loser? No. He just thinks he lost a game. Next year he’ll be right back to his winning ways. He’ll do it because he’s not going to let a single loss convince him that he’s not a great football player. He’s going to kick that loss right out of his mind and focus on the next game. And speaking of football, have you ever seen a promising career get off to a rocky start and spiral out of control from there? Matt Leinart is an interesting example. I remember his first NFL game a few years ago. He came out and made a few mistakes but he played well in that first game (to my memory). He lost, but barely. Somehow though, he lost his confidence, got worse and worse and the Cardinals wound up yanking him in favor or Kurt Warner (smart acquisition). Is it because Warner is physically superior that he won games? Hardly, he just put on his game face every week and thought about nothing but winning for 4 quarters. Then he went home and forgot about football until it was time to play again. That’s a winner.
Don’t Let Your Kids’ Minds Fail them:
Kids’ minds are fragile. If they do poorly on a test or lose a few soccer games, it’s us who need to pick them up, brush them off and help them forget about it. In the same vein though, when they do something impressive, surprise themselves with a victory and give themselves a reason to celebrate, it’s us who should help them remember that feeling for as long as possible. I’m not sure if my dad knows this bit of psychology or not, but he never fails to remind me of my senior year of high school when I won the New England Div II Cross Country Championships. That was 17 years ago! But, thanks to him, I think I’m going to win every time a put on my running shoes. I don’t of course, but I think I will. Some people call it arrogance that I have this attitude that I’m never going to lose. This is what I say: “It’s better to aim for the stars and miss than it is to aim for a pile of shit and hit.” I don’t know if I would have this same attitude if it wasn’t for my dad constantly telling me, his 35 year old son, about the time I kicked ass back in high school. Thanks, Dad.
But Don’t Lie Because Kids aren’t Stupid:
You can’t lie to kids. One thing psychologists say is that kids know when you’re being patronizing. Don’t sugarcoat a loss by trying to make it into a victory because that can do the opposite of helping their mental state. It’ll instead get them believing that you’re grasping at straws trying to find something nice to say about them. No. Our praise needs to be genuine. When your kid loses a tennis match, you should say something like, “Bummer that you didn’t win that game, son. You’ll get ‘em next time.” Insert a pat on the head and a hug. “Forget about this one and let’s get some ice cream.” Then, instead of dwelling on the loss, you start talking about some victory he’s had and perhaps plan a time to go hit the ball back and forth with him. Just don’t lie to him or start talking about how he should work harder. He wants to win more than you want him to win; telling him he needs to work harder is salt in the wound and he’ll feel even worse about himself.
All our minds are fragile. They are influenced by mere suggestion and damaged more easily than we think. When we’re dealing with the frail mind of a kid, it can be a mine field. But, the simple truth is that there are only a few rules. 1. Don’t dwell on loss. 2. Emphasize the victories. 3. Don’t lie. We all have some victories to build on. Start the mental exercises by remembering some of yours. Once you’ve convinced yourself about your own bad-assery, you can start developing the same attitude in your kids.