By most standards, 2015 was a losing year for me: I bombed out of a powerlifting meet for the first time in April. I re-focused and set my sights on Strongman Nationals. Despite months of preparation, I walked out with a disappointing third place. I immediately switched gears and spent 15 weeks meticulously dieting and training for the Dexter Jackson Classic Figure Show in October. After 15 weeks of perfect dieting, training my ass off, and doing more cardio than I care for, I walked out with a 2nd place finish.
That’s right: I didn’t win a single big event last year. However, I was able to get good at losing. Given the time frame that these events took place, I wasn’t able to waste time throwing myself a pity party. I had to find a way to turn the losses into a win. Organically, a loss-strategy emerged that you can apply:
Acceptance: Accepting a loss is something a lot of people struggle with. This usually manifests in a number of ways: pouting, making excuses, faking injuries, blaming the judges,etc. However, very rarely does energy spent entertaining excuses change the outcome. Losing productively requires taking ownership of the outcome of the day. You were outperformed, plain and simple. This is no ones “fault” but your own. Quit looking for how the playing field was not fair and start looking for where you underperformed.
Examination: When you win, it is hard to look at your performance and see what could be different. There are few side-by-sides to see where people beat you and frankly, no urgency to do so. However, when you unexpectedly get your ass handed to you, you have to look at what you did and didn’t do. How consistent was your training? Did you take every opportunity to hone your craft? Were you mentally present during the competition? Did you make stupid mistakes? Did you underestimate the competition? Could you have moved better, faster, or smoother? These are all things you must examine to avoid a repeat performance.
Regrouping: Once you have a good idea where you could have done better, its time to re-evaluate. Assuming you enjoy the sports you participate in, you have to devise a plan that allows you to perform BETTER. After you have examined where you were at fault, you can dust it off and work on fixing the problem(s). This could mean a variety of things. Hiring a coach, changing your programming, taking an extended off season, tweaking form/technique, and changing your mindset are all common fixes.
Appreciate your sport or quit: Everytime I have competed, win or lose, I ask myself what the competition brought me. Thus far, it has brought me joy. It has taught me the value of time, training, and working towards a goal. It has brought me friends. It has developed relationships. It has shown me how fortunate I am to be physically able to compete. I have grown to fully appreciate the incredible team, facility, and support I have at around me. Sometimes, the competition brings me a shiny trophy. Frankly, if I never get another bit of hardware, the juice was worth the squeeze. When the above paragraph is no longer true, I will quit. That is all there is to it.
Indeed, on paper, 2015 was terrible. As a competitive person, each time on the podium was gut wrenching. Falling short on my goals is never something I plan on. I certainly wouldn’t imagine it to happen three times, consecutively, everytime I competed for an entire calendar year. However, as the dust has settled, I realized that this experience collectively has been the single biggest turning point for me. The lessons in losing are things I have read about, heard about, seen people grabbing but hadn’t lived. Each loss forced me to evaluate myself, where I was, what I needed to do to get where others were. For that alone, it hardly feels like losing. I encourage you to take losses like you do wins: with gratitude and a healthy game plan to move forward.