Don’t be a loser

Losing is a disease.

It’s a plague that affects the perpetual wishers and dreamers who live lives unfulfilled. It affects the complainers who whine more than they want change and those who wallow in the spirit of ‘I Can’t.”

San Francisco just finished a celebration that started when the Giants capped a four-game sweep over the Detroit Tigers in the Major League Baseball World Series. The collective euphoria will die down a little bit once the parade down Market Street drifts further into memory, but the Giants aren’t a story that will be forgotten around the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Giants won their second World Series Championship in three years and the organization’s seventh championship in its history. While the the historical achievement is impressive, the most enduring part of this 2012 team is the way they did it.

The sweep closed the book on this baseball season, but there really wasn’t supposed to be a final chapter. The Giants were dead in the water twice during this playoff run. They were down 2-0 in the best of five Division Series against the Cincinatti Reds and down 3-1 in the best of seven National League Championship series to the St. Louis Cardinals. That means they won six win-or-go home elimination games just for a shot in the World Series.

That’s six chances to fold. That’s six chances to become another anonymous statistic in the long collective memory of baseball history. That’s six chances to defy the odds and the Giant met the challenge every time. When the players hoisted the trophy on the road in Comerica ballpark in Detroit they reeled off seven straight wins with their last loss coming a week and a half ago.

This team is an enigma to the national media that focuses on high-priced sluggers and star power, but the one thing that isn’t sexy is what these Giants did best.  They competed better than anybody else. They played their hardest every inning, every pitch, every moment despite long odds and history that told them constantly that this wasn’t possible.

You may be wondering what this has to do with your career. Well, competition is not something that is relegated to sports, but  a mindset that is universal, timeless and critical to your success. Your job search is a competition, your business is a competition even that novel you are writing is a competition. The opponent could be the unseen fellow vying for your job, the rival trying to pull off the same business model you are or it could be yourself and the demons that you carry.

The best compete at the highest level and the ones that don’t you’ve probably never heard of because they’ve already quit. To rise up in the ranks, to get where you need to go is a matter of preparation, belief and a willingness to compete. It’s aspiring to be the best not just when it counts, but every moment of every day.
Sometimes career struggles stem from the heart. No amount of advice will fix the person who thinks like a loser. There isn’t much anybody can do for the person that has lost the will to compete.

Numbers can’t explain a competitor whether it’s unemployment figures or postseason history because competition happens in the here and now. Facts, figures and numbers of any type are written after the fact and we use it to extrapolate a possible future. History only has power over the folks who believe in what it says.

Data can be used to make an informed decision in the present, but too often it’s used as a reason to not even try.

History helps you identify what risks may lay ahead, but it can’t predict anything with absolute certainty. A competitor embrace the risks that come with history. To them it is an opportunity that is there for the taking and the best ones rarely let go. Competitors are selfish, but it’s the type of attitude that you actually want to have. To a competitor, every opportunity is a chance to win and make yourself better. It’s a chance to prove yourself worthy of the moment however large or small it is.

There’s a caveat to this. Competing does not guarantee you will win every situation. A mind set does not sway a decision in your favor. It won’t guarantee that you will get that job, that the rejection letter won’t come or that you won’t be the next man up during a round of layoffs.

Competitors don’t make winning or losing into a problem because to them it’s about playing the game not a result. Pressure only afflicts those who orient themselves with the results and see the game as a means to an end. A competitor simply doesn’t see winning or losing because they know it is beyond them to judge what is positive or negative in their lives.

A horrible situations may seem like losing, but who’s to say that the experience was bad for you? The next job might be better, that rejection letter could lead you to a better offer elsewhere, perhaps getting laid off is your opportunity to start a new career.

A true competitor wins every single time because the idea of losing does not exist to them. To them, the true measure of winning is playing the game to its fullest. A competitor feels the greatest pleasure in being exhausted and knowing in their heart of hearts that the effort was there.

Results don’t matter, but the effort does because in the end that is all we can give to our careers, to our lives and to the moment at hand. The best thing about thinking this way is that you can only get better.

Not all of us get to celebrate our career achievements with a parade down Market Street, but there is a certain pleasure in the grind no matter what that is. There is pleasure in simply playing the game for its own own sake.

For 29 other MLB teams the season ended early, but hope is eternal for there is always next year for them. The beauty of being a competitor is that there is always a shot at redemption. Give everything you have to each moment of the day for in the end effort is the only thing completely under your control.

The only way you can lose is to not compete at all.