Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Opportunities in Losing

There's a mantra in the sport of rowing that, I have often thought, holds true for many other aspects of life: "hard work is the key to success." The opportunity to do hard work can reveal itself to us in many different ways, whether it is the actual physical labor and effort necessary to make a boat go fast or, a time commitment, that puts the pressure on everything else in our lives by making it far more difficult to manage and provide the necessary amount of time and attention to the other commitments in our lives.

Rowing opens the door to both of these avenues of hard work. The early morning practices in the middle of the week and on weekends requires the discipline to get the rest of your work done early enough so you can get enough sleep. The physical deficit that the workouts leave because of the immense calorie expenditure, lactic acid build up, and the huge amount of wattage required to execute to workouts properly also makes doing the necessary recovery work a much more difficult task then it would otherwise be.

After missing a goal that you have been working towards all year, a flood of thoughts and emotions can rush through your mind. Thankfully during these times we often have a role model to turn to, in our case, Coach. As we came off the water after just missing qualifying for the Grand Finals he said to us,
"Life sometimes gives us unique opportunities to handle disappointment with grace."

As I walked back to the hotel and reflected on what coach said and struggled with the word "opportunity" in reference to losing a race, but as I thought about it, two other quotes I'm rather fond of popped into my head:
"Anyone can win, but it takes a real champion to know how to take a loss."

"A man is introduced to his true character in the face of adversity."

Losing or being disappointed is being faced with adversity, lets face it, no one wants to lose in competitive athletics. That said, it is easy to win, to celebrate, to finally get what you have worked so hard for, but to come out on the short end of that is being faced with a whole lot of adversity. It leaves us with a decision that I think defines, at least part of, who we are: Do we accept the result, congratulate our competition and look toward the future and how to improve? Or, do we ruminate on the result, cursing the situation, the people around us, ourselves, and the work we did?

The former is the way I will always aspire to lose because, I think, in life we do a lot more losing then we do winning, but learning to lose with grace and class opens the door for you to learn something about yourself and the task at hand each time. Whether that is learning how to push yourself harder in the 3rd 500meter stretch of a race, to re-evaluate your approach on a climb, or how to prepare better for future endeavors. By accepting a loss, we own it. And when we own it the potential to learn and improve is exponential. So I suppose the word "opportunity" when referring to a loss is, although it is not an opportunity I'd like to take advantage of too often, is in fact the proper word to use.

Keep your SWAG on.