From one to the next to the next. A downhill slope.
As children, we aren’t usually taught to lose well. Americans in particular have an incredibly low tolerance for losing.
The reality is, we all lose sometimes. We all fail.
But in a culture where former greats are shamed for being less great, the best goalie in the world calls her opponents “cowards” because they beat her, and the end justifies the means, we don’t know what to do with losing.
When was the last time you lost at something? Or failed? Or even just made a huge mistake? Were you able to separate yourself from it? Did you see the nearly invisible line between “I failed,” and “I am a failure?” Did you cross that line, maybe without even knowing it?
Last week, I mentioned Kerri Walsh Jennings. In case you don’t remember her (I didn’t until last week) Kerri is a three-time Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball. She is 38, has three children, and has had five (FIVE!) shoulder surgeries. In a match in 2015, Kerri dislocated her shoulder while attempting to spike the ball. Apparently unfazed, they popped her shoulder back into place and she finished the game. She won.
You get the idea. The woman has grit beyond measure, determination, and perhaps even an unhealthy level of drive to win.
I admire her very much.
But beach volleyball requires a partner. Kerri’s partner, Misty May-Treanor, had announced the 2012 London Olympics would be her last. Immediately following her gold medal win with Misty, Kerri said to her opponent, silver medalist April Ross, “Let’s go get gold in Rio.”
Think about the moment when April said “Yes” to playing with Kerri. There was a lot involved. Kerri had three gold medals and an unbeaten streak in the Olympics. Kerri would be forced to switch from her natural left side to playing on the right. Kerri had the experience, the history, the accolades.
If anything happened between London and Rio, it would rest on April’s shoulders, right? The world was very aware of what Kerri could do. The question mark, the uncertainty, the one who could fail, was April. But she still said yes.
I want you to think about that. Someone looks at you and says, “I believe in you. I want you on my team. Let’s go perform in front of the ENTIRE WORLD. And if we fail, they’ll probably blame you. I won’t, but they will. What do you say?” Would you do it? Could you maintain your sense of who you are, even knowing you could fail? Would you have the guts, the self-confidence, to say yes?
Here’s the real question: Knowing that you will fail and lose and make mistakes, will you choose to say yes and to play with courage anyway?
For the record, they lost a match in Rio. And Kerri blamed it entirely on herself.