When I was young, winning was my passion. I think back to when I played high school athletics, I just loved to win. Winning was great because it validated my skills. In my mind, through winning and nothing else it was recognized that I was skilled. I could meet expectations if I won. If I lost, my skills were garbage and everyone knew it. I realize now how destructive my mentality was to my growth.
Now, I still love winning. Winning is what drives me to work hard every day. Hell, I probably love winning more than I did when I was younger. I want to achieve, I want to grind, I want to succeed.
So how is my mentality today any different from the “destructive” attitude of my youth? It sounds like nothing has changed.
The difference is when I was younger, I wanted you to lose. If you were my opponent and you were a 4, I wanted to be a 5. If you were an 8, I wanted to be a 9. All that mattered at the end of the game was the score. If I beat you, I knew I was better.
This attitude is the absolute worst outlook that a young person can have. Growth is completely hindered by this thinking. If all you think about is whether or not you are going to win, you are missing the whole point.
Nowadays, if I am playing someone in a pick-up game and they have the score wrong, I don’t argue. I view it as a challenge I will beat you no matter how many extra points you have. If a referee makes a questionable call, I don’t argue. I will win no matter how the odds are stacked against me.
This thinking is no less competitive. But it is productive. And it is progressive.
And of course I don’t win anywhere close to every time. But I have recognized that over the long-term, this outlook makes me a better player. I no longer care how good you are in the least, because I am only playing you once. I am playing against myself all the time.
While this post has revolved around sports, it truly has nothing to do with athletics. It has to do with everything. It has to do with how you approach every single thing you do. If you live your life to simply “outscore your opponent”, you might win, but you will never live up to your potential.
Maybe you want to prove something to your parents. Maybe you want to show your high school peers who picked on you. Maybe you want to prove to some ex that you have that he/she missed out.
These desires and grudges may motivate you temporarily. But you will never be satisfied, nor will you be happy.
I know too many people who make a ton of money, doing something they clearly hate for a living. They often say, “Well, I won’t be here forever. This isn’t what I want to do forever, but it’s nice for now.” They are not developing skills to get them where they want to be. They are not reaching to get better at any particular craft that interests them. They are pushing through everyday simply to get a bunch of money that they often don’t need.
They are worried most about validation. They want to be recognized by their peers as “winning.” But the truth is this: no one really cares. This is the problem with the millennial generation. A misplaced belief exists that if you post enough exciting pictures of yourself having more fun than your peers on Instagram, make your job sound extraordinarily important on LinkedIn, or post daily status updates about how you are #LovingLife on Facebook, maybe, just maybe you will be validated. Everyone will know how great you are.
At the end of the day, only the people who support you actually care what you are doing. And if you need some external motivation, use their support. Don’t waste your life trying to win at a game that does not exist. Always focus on trying to get better at what you want to do, because this is the only path to happiness and mastery.