Don’t let one loss turn into two (or more)

For those of you who don’t follow college football or particularly care for sports, please bear with me.  The cautionary tale that follows begins with a sports reference, but is a life-lesson, nonetheless.

Earlier this week, Stanford University spanked Virginia Tech in the Discover Orange Bowl.  For those of you less sports-inclined, “spanked” means “beat really, really badly”.  Okay, where was I?  O yeah, so Stanford whooped Virginia Tech 40-12 and honestly the game wasn’t that close.  They beat them so bad, in fact, that Andrew Luck, Stanford’s quarterback, solidified himself as the #1 prospect for the NFL Draft (he decided a few days later that he’d stay in school) and their head coach, Jim Harbaugh, parlayed what amounted to the culmination of a pretty remarkable stint, albeit short, at Stanford into a head coaching position at one of the most storied franchises in all of sports, the San Francisco 49ers.

Okay, what the heck am I getting at?  Well, what many forget- it had even slipped my mind- was that Virginia Tech, who came into the game versus Stanford with a record of 11-2, got off to a rather inauspicious start, losing its first two ballgames.  Lou Holtz, the former Notre Dame coach and current ESPN Analyst, jogged my memory when he said before the Orange Bowl that Virginia Tech had lost to Boise State twice.  What?  Twice?  “What is this old man (he just turned 74) talking about?” I asked myself.  “Twice?”

What Holtz went on to further explain made perfect sense, though.  After losing to Boise State, Virginia Tech did the unthinkable, losing to James Madison.  Now Boise State is a good program.  So is Virginia Tech.  Both are considered among the elite football programs, at the highest level, in the country.  James Madison, on the other hand, participates in the NCAA’s  (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division I Football Subdivision.  Formerly known as Division IAA, this division of football was established by the NCAA in 1979 for schools with strong overall athletic programs, but football programs not on par with the powerhouses.  James Madison is one of those schools that the Virginia Tech’s of the world schedule early in the season as a ‘warm-up’, a way to earn additional revenue with one more home game without unnecessary physical wear and tear.

So, what happened?  Well, Virginia Tech lost a close game (33-30) to Boise State.  Then, in a weird scheduling snafu, the Hokies lost five days later, at home no less, to James Madison (21-16).  The loss dropped Virginia Tech completely out of the Top 25, after beginning the season ranked #10 in the country.  While the short turnaround in so physical a sport didn’t help, more at fault was something with which we all have difficulty- forgetting about and moving on from ‘losses’ in our lives.  Virginia Tech was so devastated from the loss that they held onto it for several days, taking focus away from their next opponent.  That is something you can’t do in football, regardless who the opponent is.

It’s also something we all do in our lives.   It could be a missed jumpshot that causes a lapse on the defensive end of the court.  Maybe it’s an argument with our child that ruins our whole day.  Or it could be a chewing out by our boss that makes us reluctant to take chances at work in the future.  This inability to move on, to have what football coaches call selective amnesia, haunts all of us in one form and at one time or another.

How do we overcome this?  Well, I don’t have the complete answer to that.  If I did have the formula, I’d probably be a rich man.  My experience playing cornerback in college probably helps, but even then I’ll admit I often allowed plays in which I got beaten to linger in my mind.  I, too, have allowed mistakes I’ve made in my everyday life to get me down.  But in realizing that holding on to negatives emotions and remaining in unproductive states of mind only hinders growth, I’m at least able to reflect and attack the situation aggressively.  Well, sometimes anyway.  Going through these few steps also helps:

  1. Accept the result as ONE LOSS.  –No matter what the score is, the result is only one loss.  Whether you lose by one point or thirty, it’s still only one loss.  The same is true in life.  No matter how bad your day was, it’s still only one day.  Tomorrow the sun will still rise and your life will- and must- go on.
  2. Learn from the mistake AND associated emotions- Analyze what happened so that you can learn from it.  As importantly, though, learn what about the event upset you and made it so difficult to move past.  Don’t allow an emotional anchor to develop.  An anchor, as Anthony Robbins describes it in Unlimited Power is “the process by which any representation (internal or external) gets connected to and triggers a subsequent string of representation and responses.”  It is common for one bad experience to trigger fear, anxiety, and depression when similar events occur in the future.  Evaluate and fight against these emotions so that they don’t control you forever.
  3. Take immediate action- The quicker you are able to take steps toward addressing the negative result the better.  Whenever possible, approach the situation positively. What can you learn from it?  What mistakes did you make; how did you or your actions contribute to the negative result?  What can you do right now to turn this into a positive?  By making this into a habit, your standard for dealing with adversity, you will be better equipped at preventing these inevitable losses from paralyzing you from action.  And better at keeping one loss, well one loss.

Good Luck.  And, remember that I’m working on this stuff, too- far from consistently implementing the three steps outlined above.  So wish me luck, too.


About bbluford
I am an executive finance professional with a love for process and application development (MS Access, Excel, Quickbooks), mostly as it relates to Accounting and Business Functions. I also love to write and share ideas with other people in this world. I'm an admitted Gym Rat who works out excessively. The best summation of me is that I love to teach and to learn.

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