Discover more from The Monday Morning Coach
Boost The Wins, Bury The Losses—Not The Other Way Around
Living “inspired by your past and motivated by your future,” pursue progression over perfection.
Serena Williams just completed the most storied and successful tennis career ever. She’s arguably the best athlete ever to dominate a sport. For 25 years, she’s overcome obstacles on and off the court. But even with all of those accomplishments, she lost her final match in the third of the 2022 U.S. Open to Ajla Tomljanovic.
After Williams won in the first and second rounds of the Open, we sat with her wins a little longer than usual. We weren't ready to move on because we anticipated the end was near. We savored and celebrated her victories as a part of an already cherished career. But when we win, that’s not our typical response. We're prone to bury the wins in pursuit of the next endeavor as we exalt the losses on an impossible quest for perfection.
I recently asked some coaches, “How does it feel to be a winner on Monday?” “Oh that’s done Coach,” most responded. “After 24 hours gotta flush it away and get ready for the next one. Back to the grind!” I even asked the team’s biggest superstar the same question. He had a similar response. “I mean, it’s alright I guess,” he said tepidly. “They were sorry though so there’s not too much to celebrate.”
Next game. Next play. Next meet. Next match. These are the mantras most coaches live by during their seasons. We pass it on to our athletes. No matter the outcome of the game/event, our job is to ensure our staff and athletes are always ready for the next task. That’s the only sure way to build a potential dynasty—or is it?
The eagerness to make our achievements short-lived comes from the rationality of refocusing and regrouping so we can hopefully win again. We don’t want some past success holding us back from the next one. Too much emphasis on our past—positive or negative—can hold us back from moving forward.
But what if we could look ahead and cherish the wins?
Seasons—and life in general—are too short to let these wins be momentary. Just consider that you are a part of the majority who lose more often than you win. In a race of eight runners, seven lose. In high school basketball, volleyball, football, soccer, and tennis, thousands of teams across each state start the season with hopes of winning it all. But only one team from each division earns the opportunity to raise the championship trophy.
But because of survivor’s bias—our attention to only the people who “succeed” in life—we’re prone to downplay the wins in pursuit of the next ultimate goal without fully appreciating our accomplishments. Of course, our losses can provide valuable lessons, but so can our wins if we sit with them a little longer.
The benefit of hanging on to those wins a little longer than society tells us we ought to is twofold. For one, you grow grateful for the hard work paying off, which can inspire your work ethic as you prepare for the next game or event. Secondly, cherishing wins builds the motivation necessary to continue pressing when you inevitably hit the wall of failure. When we force ourselves to forget the victories we succumb to hopelessness and despair.
In life, as with sports, if we disallow ourselves the extended satisfaction of enjoying the positive experience of wins, we signal to ourselves and our athletes that we’re only as valuable as our next win. True, in our society people’s jobs are on the line if they don’t consistently perform at a high level—especially in sports. But remember, the majority of us don’t reach the pinnacle of success so depressing the positive emotions of temporary success works against the goal we’re trying to achieve.
I’m not saying if you have a big game, presentation, or meeting you completely abandon your preparation and focus for the next one. Instead, take all the positive emotions into your preparation as motivation for your next endeavor.
This is living “inspired by your past and motivated by your future.”
In the end, it's our efforts more than the wins that matter most, because failure/losses will inevitably come around sooner or later. Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck suggests we should praise effort over accomplishments in our kids. “Focusing on the latter is likely to exacerbate a fixed mindset,” Dweck advises, “making them more reluctant to risk encountering failure in the future."
So next time you encounter a win in life, savor it, remember it and let it inspire your next task. Of course, you could lose next time, but remember, it doesn't devalue you or your previous successes.
The Monday Morning Coach is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.