Striking the Winning Balance: A Four Step Process to Keep the Pressure from Ever Exceeding the Pleasure

Wanting to win is a positive trait, and it's important not to lose that desire. But as the World Series winning manager Joe Maddon says, "don't ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." To strike the right balance, I propose a four-step process:

  1.  Acknowledge the pressure to win, the ambition, and the craving for victory. Simply recognizing these feelings in ourselves and others is crucial. It's neither good nor bad; it just is. Journaling and mindfulness practices can help us become aware of these cravings.
  2.  Honor that ambition, desire, or craving by giving our very best collective effort. True competition is about striving together for excellence. The word "competing" originates from the Latin term "com peteyre," meaning to strive together. So, let's acknowledge the drive and honor it by giving our best both individually and as a team.
  3.  Remember our purpose for playing or coaching. Just like Joe Maddon finds joy in the day-to-day journey, rather than solely focusing on achieving outcomes, we should remember our purpose. For example, our purpose may be helping his athletes become better people. Whether it's about fun, connection, joy, or camaraderie with teammates, let's stay connected to our purpose.
  4.  We need to accept that the result, whatever it may be, doesn't define us as human beings. While it may shape our legacy as athletes and coaches, it doesn't reflect our character. Tom Brady is considered the GOAT because of his seven Super Bowl victories, not because of his character. Similarly, Jordan is hailed as the basketball GOAT due to his six NBA championships, not just his character. 

In April 2023, Giannis Antetokounmpo faced considerable criticism when he expressed the view that not winning an NBA Championship every season should not be regarded as a failure. The critics are right, when people compare Giannis to Michael Jordan in the future, championships will primarily be the measure. However, Giannis' family, true friends, and even teammates will evaluate his legacy based on who he was as a person. The losses don't reflect who you are as a person, but how you handle those losses does.

So to become a true competitor, follow these steps:

  1. Acknowledge the ambition.
  2. Honor it with effort.
  3. Remember your purpose for playing or coaching.
  4. Accept that the result, although it may be painful, isn't entirely within your control and doesn't define your worth as a person.

- J.P. Nerbun

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