Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Are you ready to lose the war to win the battle?

As we have seen in the earlier blog, excelling in life is about using unforced situations to make the right choices most of the time to enhance your knowledge in the areas of your strengths as well as using forced difficult situations in life to grow mentally.  For this to happen, one has to battle with the mind's demons all the time. Because this whole battle happens in one's mind and cannot be seen or monitored from outside, it is therefore a battle against oneself.

But contrary to the common belief, excelling is not about winning every point, every game or even a set. If you have seen the Andy Murray's US Open win, you will appreciate this principle of winner. Infact, excellent winners use the losses in wars to prepare themselves to win the bigger battle. Winners use three winning strategies to help them win even from losses. Let us understand Andy Murray's win from this perspective.

1. Until he consolidates his strengths, winner does not worry about losing  

A baseline player like Andy Murray likes to play from the back of court. He does not like to go to the net even when it is easy to win a point. Despite what the critics and analysts have been telling him, Andy Murray does not still go to the net. If you see the match statistics of US Open, you will see that he came 24 times to the net, as compared to 56 times for Djokovic. Andy Murray was ready to lose points at net. Instead of using net, Andy murray preferred to consolidate his forehand which, according to Boris Becker, was a significant factor in Murray's win.

If you see Pravin and Angad's case, you will see that excellent professionals in knowledge field use the same strategy. Angad consolidated his strength of 'sales', even though he did not like 'sales'. So even though, you may not like working in software, BPO, or in any other function, please consolidate your strengths before you move into a new function, domain, skill, or venture. Being prepared to lose 3-5 years helped Angad win the ultimate battle.

2.While flowing with the unfolding of events, excellent winner does not think of losing 

When a server in tennis has made a good serve, he has a upper hand in the point. The receiver has to be defensive and play defensively. In such a situation, receiver has to flow with the unfolding of the shots and learn to wait for the right time to strike. If the opportunity does not come in that point, he has to let the point go without letting his mind affected by the loss of point. Sometimes, when an excelling professional is serving well, he loses many games before he gets an opportunity. The exceller uses this strategy to train his mind to wait (and not get impatient) so that he can play the right shot at the right time. Without training his mind, he tends to play low-percentage shots and try to manipulate the events forcibly.

Knowledge professional finds it very difficult to use this excelling strategy. I often find professionals reacting to the events instead of learning from the events.  Many professionals, for instance, approach me in May/June  to change their jobs, because they have get less than expected rating ( or increments) in their current jobs during the year-end performance appraisal? Instead of learning the dynamics of rating or increments, they just run away from it and then tend to repeat the mistake in new company! Instead of remaining with the flow, professionals are desperate to 'change the flow' forcibly, often causing too much of hardship for themselves. And more importantly, they never learn the winning habit of 'waiting for the right time to strike' which is a must-have skill of winner.

3. Losses are useful to tame the demon of Self doubt 

The demon of self doubt is always lurking in the corner. It can be best tamed when one suffers a loss.   Recall how Lendl helped tame the demon of Andy Murray's Self doubt after losing to Djokovic in Australian Open of 2012. Instead of saying 'he lost again', he said 'He got a self belief that if he could hang in, he could win'.It is more important to remember that Self doubt has to be tamed, not banished from the mind, because it is very useful to keep one's feet firm on the ground when one is winning.

Without self-doubt, one starts believing that 'he alone has caused the outcome of winning'. As we have seen, this  belief 'that we can produce outcomes' is unrealistic. And having unrealistic beliefs does not help us in sustaining our habit of excellence. Losses therefore are useful to tame the self doubt and keep it alive because it is required to sustain the excelling habit. If you hear Roger Federer's interviews after winning his match, you will see how he credits his wins to outside events and situations !

For a knowledge professional, this strategy is even more important. In an organisational dynamics, one often gets 'undue credit' for an outcome ( like big sales order, or good project management) because the team and colleagues performed well. Without self doubt, professionals often get the success in their head as they start believing that 'they alone' are responsible for their success. In corporate life, you will find many such 'one-victory'  professionals who survive with their one brilliant performance. They are unable to regain their winning habits, because they could not tame their self doubt.


In short, losses and successes both are required to sustain excellence practice because both are just feedbacks to your way of thinking. Like Thomas Edison said ' I have not failed 1000 times. I have successfully discovered 1000 ways of not making a bulb'. If you have to practice the habit of excellence, you will invariably win some and lose some.  And that is why it is important to be prepared to lose , if you have to excel.

Are you prepared to lose to sustain your excellence habit? 

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