In my usual level of crediting others and disclosing where some of my ideas come from, this is straight from an interview clip I saw of Tony Robbins and Tom Bilyeu. I love both of these guys, and HIGHLY recommend you listen to this entire video, but if you want to jump to the specific piece I am referencing, go to the 10:00 mark and listen closely.
On the surface it seems like the idea of making your worst day ever into your best day would be impossible; its referred to as your worst day for a reason. It sucked, something bad happened. It’s a place you don’t want to go to again any time soon. But the takeaway message is that if you can learn from this incident, and see it from a third person point of view for just a bit, you are well on your way to learning a huge lesson in life.
I had a couple of choices on this topic, as I have had more than one really bad day by varying definitions. I am so grateful that my choices don’t include the death of a parent or a close friend, or actual real bad stuff that could have happened. You can read about my head-on collision with a drunk driver here, but that wasn’t my choice for today’s post. I lost in a Pro Racquetball tournament, in my home town, 11-0, 11-0, 11-0 to one of my best friends. It got written up in the magazine as “A first time ever…” and the microcosm of the world I lived in at the time all knew about it. It was embarrassing to say the least, but I did learn a lot from that experience, but that will be shared in a different post. Again, not tragic, just embarrassing and ego-denting.
The one I chose for this example was the loss in the finals of the State Racquetball Championships. There is a long back story to this, but here are the quick highlights. Keep in mind as you read this, I am a reformed asshole. Some of the things you’ll read are a far cry from anything I would do or say today.
–I was fighting with the people who ran this event for long time, and “boycotted” several years in a row, somehow thinking this was proving a point.
–I was playing on the Pro Tour at the time, and internally felt this event on the local level was “beneath me” during many of those years. I had “elevated” out of the local scene (again, in my own over-inflated opinion) and chose not to grace this annual event with my presence.
–I beat my toughest competitor in the semi-finals and thought I would cruise to an easy victory in the finals. I was playing against my workout partner, and someone I had never lost to in singles competition.
–During the match, I was being such a dick that someone in the crowd wanted to kick my ass. No idea who he was, but clearly my behavior had invited this threat.
–I CHOKED…did I mention this already?
So, the basic summary of the match was that I was cruising along and winning easily at first. My opponent was nervous and making errors at the beginning. As we were closing in on the end of the first game, I sort of stalled out, and a few things went his way back to back. I felt like I was losing my grip on the match and freaked out. I literally had a mini panic attack and could feel myself getting tight. I managed to squeak out a win in the first game, but from the outside I am sure it was clear the momentum was turning. Game two was a disaster; I played horribly and grew increasing angry about it. I lost quickly, and tried to regroup for the tie-breaker game that would decide who’s name went on the Championship trophy.
During the tiebreaker, we were both so nervous and aware of the weight of the situation, we were barely able to return the ball during the rallies. The level of play was a far cry from the highest in the tournament like it should have been. It never got any better, and in the end he basically sucked just a little less than I did. I lost 11-9 in the tiebreaker, the only year I played this event in quite some time. I was the dominant tournament player in AZ during this time, it was mine to be had, but I fell short in putting my name on the trophy. I blew it. I had the wrong motivations; I thought winning would be the ultimate “EFF YOU” to the tournament directors. I behaved like I deserved my name on that trophy, not like I had to earn it. I handled myself very poorly, and the outcome was, for me at the time, the “worst thing that could have happened”.
I could barely stand there during the awards ceremony. I felt like I was going to throw up; I was disgusted with myself, for several reasons. I was handed my second place trophy and was “forced” to pose for some pictures. I couldn’t wait to get the Hell out of there. I gathered up my stuff in a hurry, never bothering to shower or change out of my sweaty playing clothes. I walked outside to where my car was, and in one last classless display, threw the 2nd place trophy on top of the covered parking roof. I sat down in the car and became overwhelmed with emotion, bursting into tears. I cried for a long time, unable to collect myself enough to drive away. It was one of the lowest points of my life, not just my racquetball career. Or so I thought…
The sting of this lingered for a long time. Slowly I did begin to learn from this situation, some of it from being forced to confront the idea that I was not bullet proof, that nothing is a given. I didn’t deserve to win, no one ever does. Any time you face an opponent in competition you have to understand that they have also earned the right to be there. That this is going to be a struggle, and you have to do your job to help ensure you have a shot at winning. It is not pre-written, you don’t get handed a victory based on your previous results, and most people (opponents) will not just roll over and “comply” as your ego may think they should.
Other lessons came in slow doses, but one of the most important ones I eventually wrapped my head around was that I identified my self worth far too much by my results. This was not life or death, but I treated it that way. It took a lot of work to decouple wins and losses from my ego and my self confidence. There would be a few more of these type of situations to really solidify the growth I was in desperate need of. The last pro match I ever played was a great example of this…but that story is saved for another time.
Now that I am literally 20+ years past this, I look back and laugh. God, I was such an asshole back then. I am surprised that I have any friends at all from that time period in my life. I wasn’t raised that way, I had allowed my voracious ego to create the monster I had become. I had a raging superiority complex simply because I could do things on a racquetball court that others could not. I was entitled; the higher level of play I attained the worse this mindset ingrained itself in my behavior. I got to the point I thought I was above reproach for anything I said or did; no one was safe and nothing was off limits. I broke racquets (free, from my sponsor, making it even worse…) damaged health club property more than once, and may have set a world record for a pool chair toss after one loss in Albuquerque. It was awful to say the least…
So how did one of my worst days become one of my best? Two things:
TIME and PERSPECTIVE
Eventually I learned from that day, lessons that were long overdue and VERY important for moving forward in my life. As I have said many times before, I am still a work in progress, just like everyone else. I do give myself credit for changing these deeply ingrained behavior patterns. Coaching really helped me change this. I was Hellbent on leading by example, and something that is ALWAYS in the forefront of my mind. So as difficult as that situation was, I wouldn’t have changed it. I NEEDED it. It took something that drastic to get my attention and start the process of the change in mindset and behavior. That hyper painful experience changed my life, and I am thankful for it.
I encourage you to look back over you life and review some of the experiences you refer to as “bad” and see what came out of those situations. Did you learn, grow, or change? If so, they may have been painful but clearly necessary lessons, just like mine was. You need to reframe that memory in your head to be a positive instead of a negative. Zoom out and look at the big picture instead of focusing on the microcosm of just that experience itself. The world will be a happier place for you if you can do that, I promise. It certainly is so for me.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.