“Hey, it’s good that you’re upset. It shows that you care.”
My coach’s father leaves me with words of wisdom while I sit in the hallway straight off of a loss. Indistinguishable beads of sweat and tears of frustration roll down my face. At that moment, I couldn’t care less about the difference. I had just been eliminated from the New England Prep Championships after having poured my heart and soul into my training. I went as far as to voluntarily live in poverty six hours away from home during my summer break of high school so that I could find the best opportunities to train. To have a chance of winning it all. What did I have to show for it? Not much, apparently. Every competitor knows the soul-wrenching heartbreak of having their dreams crushed. How can someone possibly maintain their composure at such a time?
Without a doubt, focus and passion for the sport are prerequisites to reaching the highest levels of a sport or anything else. The agony of defeat becomes unbearable. Of course, there’s where greatness begins.
Defeat presents an obstacle. In overcoming obstacles, you progress closer to your goals, and I’ve never heard of any athlete or top performer in any field that did not lose or face adversity in some way or another.
Handled correctly, adversity can be used as a tool to improve and grow. Allow yourself to come to terms with the loss, give yourself enough time to explore and sit with the emotions that come with a heartbreaking loss, and then move on. Now, you’re ready to learn the lesson you need to propel yourself to new and greater heights.
Jordan Burroughs Rising Again
Jordan Burroughs’ heartbreaking loss at the 2016 Olympic Games prevented him from joining the elite company of multiple-time Olympic champions. Despite being in visible and deep emotional pain, Burroughs agreed to an interview anyway. If you listened closely, then you would have noticed that the heart of a champion had never left.
Burroughs battled back to a gold medal at the 2017 world championships following a series of clutch victories in which many of the matches were decided by razor thin margins. Despite being the target of hours upon hours of scouting for weaknesses, Burroughs still found a way to win in one of the most inspiring comeback performances in recent history. One could say that he advanced through the World Championship bracket with an inspiring display of technique and athleticism, but his performances were as gritty as they were technical.
United World Wrestling named Jordan Burroughs as one of the best comebacks of 2017, but some people know better- the champion had been there the entire time.
Conor Mcgregor Unfazed
Setbacks are inevitable. Most of the time, these setbacks happen behind the scenes when no one is watching. Unfortunately some of these setbacks happen in public for everyone to see. Such was the case for Conor Mcgregor after losing to Nate Diaz.
“I will assess it, and I will come back. I’ve been on the end of many defeats in my life and rose back from them. I will not shy away from it, I will not make excuses for it. I will never shy away from a challenge, I will never shy away from defeat. It is what it is- I came up short. I took a chance, it didn’t pay off, I’ll be back.”
Sure enough, he was back at the drawing board and learning from his mistakes leading up to the previous match.
“It got complacent, you know? It got, ‘we’ll show up any time’. It got, ‘we’ll train whatever we feel like. We’ll hit them, and they’ll fall.’ This one; it forced us to look at how we were preparing. It forced us to come back together and do what we’ve been doing from the beginning, you know? Focus. Solid work.”
In interviews, he made it clear that he hadn’t faltered in his confidence.
“I feel strong. I feel strong in my mind; I always do. I don’t let defeat faze me. Like I said before, true champions can come back, true champions rise again, and I am a true champion. So, I look forward to August 20th. We can either run from adversity or we can face adversity head on and conquer it, and that’s what I plan to do.”
Sure enough, August 20th came around and it wasn’t pretty. McGregor didn’t win by typical knockout like many of his other victories. Instead, this rematch required a combination of strategy and grit. At the end of one bloodbath of a fight, he won by majority decision.
Champions love a challenge. Champions love the war. They understand that pressure creates diamonds, and that under the pressure of the bright lights and the big stage, they are given an opportunity to shine like never before. In order to have the possibility of performing like that, champions need to put themselves in a situation where they may lose.
Is your life riddled with hardship? Good. Look forward to obstacles. They present an opportunity to grow. In fact, the best in the world seek obstacles in order to feed off of the opportunity to improve even more.
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said it best in his journal, Meditations.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Extraordinary goals come with extraordinary obstacles.
What obstacles will you face today and how will you overcome them?