Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Lessons Learned Losing

Back in June, I posted the story of my dodgeball team and our Cinderella run to the finals after a regular season filled with losing.

I still proudly display my medal at work.

My fiance and I decided to join dodgeball again for the Winter season (that's right, there are actually multiple seasons of this thing), but due to scheduling conflicts we had to join a different team this time around.

Our former team (Average Jay's Gym) went on to completely dominate the competition all season long.

Our new team (The Hurlers) won just one game.

I wasn't particularly concerned. After all, in the previous season with Average Jay's, we only won two games before going on our improbable streak to the finals. Every team makes the playoffs, so really the only point of the regular season is to determine seeding. The important thing was to get everybody some time on the court, and we'd get better every week. Right?

Well, not exactly. Last night our team got absolutely pounded in round one of the playoffs (by a team named "The Chins of Chuck Norris", no less). We got shut out 4 games to zilch.

As for me, my dodgeball technique actually regressed this season. I think I lasted a total of 30 seconds in the games I played last night.

What's the point of all this? Simple. Failing teaches you things. When you do something you're good at, you don't tend to learn much from the experience. It's only when you do things that fall outside your comfort zone that you really learn. In fact, you learn a lot more about a person when they lose... especially if that person is you.

In fact, I think there's something rather strange about a person who is only interested in winning. That type of person is unlikely to participate in activities where they perceive they have a weakness, and that means that they stop developing at a certain point in their lives. They put an artificial cap on themselves and their realm of experience.

I am not a talented athlete by any stretch of the imagination. I know it might be hard to believe, but writing code for a living doesn't translate well to activities that require a great deal of physicality.

But for the past few years (largely due to my fiance's influence), I've tried out things like flag football, dodgeball, and hopefully basketball in the near future. I'm actually playing racquetball tonight with a fellow from the team.

It should make for good comedy. But you can't be afraid to get a beatdown once in awhile. You can't be afraid to lose. Because once you are afraid of failing, you stop learning.

In the link above about the old dodgeball team, there is a quote:

If it wasn't for failure, we wouldn't have succeeded.
- Lucas Hellmer

I don't think that's always true. There are a lot of talented people out there that are just good at certain things. But if they don't try things they might not be good at, they'll never realize their full potential.

So I encourage you to get out there and try something you've never tried. Better yet, do something you know you're not good at. You'll learn from the experience... even if all you learn is that a dodgeball to the face doesn't leave a mark (unless you consider shame a mark), that's something.


LastBestAngryMan said...

Actually, I think you're dead on, and you don't need to back off at the end. True success doesn't generally happen without lots of failure preceding it.

You reminded me of an old Nike commercial- it was a good one- back when MJ was in his second stint with the Bulls and still the greatest basketball player on the planet. I don't remember it word for word, but it was just a slow-mo of him walking into an arena, crowds all around, people snapping pictures, etc. And Michael's voice-over repeating all his negative statistics- all the games he lost, all the game winning shots he missed, etc, and finishing with something like "I have failed again, and again, and again. And that's why I've succeeded." And it's dead on.

Anonymous said...

You didn't metion that a basketball to the face only bends your glasses;i'm just kidding your right.;]

Ed said...

I agree that a reasonable appetite for failure is a necessary component of success but I would emphasize the reasonable aspect of it. There is a very good biological reason why humans are averse to failure and that is quite simply that until recent history in the developed world failure often had catastrophic consequences, usually death and dismemberment. We normally talk about success and failure in terms of sports or business, but for most of the world today success or failure remains a question of survival. Consider a villager in Darfur who discovers a group of guerillas raping the women in his family. He of course would like to stop them, but an unlimited appetite for failure (rushing in regardless of the odds) will almost certainly get him killed. No appetite for failure (doing nothing) will probably spare his life. If we agree that a villager who lives to support his family once the guerillas have left is better than a dead villager who takes action and fails, how good do the odds of success need to be to risk taking action? Such are the complex, instantaneous calculations that the human mind has been honed to perform over millions of years of evolution. While we may find it rewarding to increase our appetite for failure in our relatively safe world of business and sports, it may serve us well to remember that this risk appetite is set where it is to keep us alive in a world which once was for us, still is for many, and could easily become again a very dangerous place.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is... if you have to lose, losing to a team called "The chins of Chuck Norris" makes it all better. Seriously, that's some funny stuff right there.

I mean, I wouldn't want to be them when Chuck Norris finds out about it, but still...

I-n3v4r-L00z said...

Less QQ more Pew Pew!!!

Stop losing n00b