Losing and the Myth That Hard Work Always = Success

My basketball team is losing a lot, more so this year then the program ever has in recent memory. Being at the helm of the ship, I will take a lot of personal responsibility. Among the thousands of definitions of leadership, I think the one that is most applicable to team sports is “to allow and promote team members to fulfill their potential.” Unlike any other team activity, sports is the only one where the team truly needs each and every member of a 12 man squad to contribute. You occasionally will hear of a player who “took over the game” but those instances are rare. From the seemingly trivial – making sure water is ready on the bench during timeouts – to the very real and practical on the court, everyone needs to be giving 100% or else the whole thing falls apart. Unlike, say, cross-country, a basketball team lives and dies based on every person’s effort. This makes the experience both exhilarating and frustrating.

Losing – be it games, deals, employees, or whatever – can always be taken in two ways. Do you learn something from it or not. In my opinion, you can’t be an entrepreneur without being competitive. If you don’t feel nervous before something important, and don’t temporarily feel like shit if you don’t win, then you don’t care enough. True competitors, though, do not let the emotions of a win or loss overtake the most important thing which is careful attention to why certain things turned out they way they did.

A hard lesson that my team and I are discovering is that hard work doesn’t always equate to success. A lot of adults tell kids “Keep on working hard and you can be/do anything.” Ding ding ding – it’s REALITY time! Working hard is a critical factor and should be framed as the only factor that YOU can control. If something outside your control goes haywire, well, shit happens.

Last night, I watched a DVD for pleasure for the first time in awhile – Friday Night Lights – based on the popular book and true story. It is a must-see for anyone who is interested in how crazy high school football in West Texas is. The movie put my athletic experiences in perspective, as my life (unlike the students in the movie) does not start and end with basketball.

2 Responses to Losing and the Myth That Hard Work Always = Success

  1. Brad Feld says:

    I watched Friday Night Lights last weekend and loved it. I grew up in Texas and tried my hardest to ignore football – but it was everywhere. My school (Pearce) consistently lost to our cross town rival (Richardson) but every year the game was the focus for an entire week.

  2. So true. I’ve played basketball from 3rd grade to 10th,(11th,on exchange, no bb :()football from 5th grade on, and track+field for several years. Thus, the chance to view plenty of different teams. Hard work sometimes just doesn’t provide everything you need to win. I’ve been on undefeated slacker teams and totally driven teams that didn’t do quite so well. It’s a complex issue on what kind of an enviroment there needs to be to really promote success on a team. I guess i’ll have to think on that one for awhile. :)

    Loved Friday Night Lights. Reminds me -a little- of the “glory days” in my town when my brother played. 3 states FB championships, 1 national, a BB championship, and a 2nd place track finish. Rough coach, community wanted trophies, everyone played football, 35/37 boys. Still nothing like West Texas.

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