A couple of years ago I entered a multi-sport competition in Sydney, doing two events on the same day. First up was the triathlon. I had trained hard and expected to do well, but had a terrible race and ended up finishing 4th. I was really disappointed and frustrated that all my training had come to nothing.
An hour later I competed in the 40k cycling road race. There were lots of strong riders in the pack and I knew the competition would be stiff. I made a break with 8 k’s to go and managed to hang for the win, which was totally unexpected.
All of a sudden my attitude really picked up. It turns out winning feels so much better than losing. I was on top of the world and life was grand just because I won a bike race.
Winners are grinners. We all know the importance of managing our state when we are losing. Every business owner who has been around more than a week knows the importance of staying positive when things aren’t working out, but it is so much easier to have a great attitude when you are winning!
I am sure you have heard people promote the idea that doing what you love and following your passions is the key to success. However, Cal Newport, Georgetown University professor and author of So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Search For Work You Love suggests that, from an entrepreneur’s point of view, this may be the worst advice you’ve ever been given. Just because you love something doesn’t mean anyone else will. Your love for it is certainly no guarantee that it will get you a win. Newport adds, "That advice has probably resulted in more failed businesses than all the recessions combined..."
I’ve got a friend who quit his job to go follow his dream of doing something really arty and creative. Now I find my Facebook news feed littered with complaints about how hard his life is. He constantly bemoans being overworked and underpaid. He is doing something he loves and people seem to love what he does, but he is certainly not winning and it seems to be slowly killing him.
Now please hear me… I’m a huge fan of following your dreams and doing what is in your heart. I quit my job 4 years ago to start my own business doing something I am totally passionate about. It has been the toughest adventure of my life. There were so many times when I wondered if I would make it.
I’m a nice guy… I like the thought of helping other people without needing to have an ulterior motive of feathering my own nest.
It has taken me a while to realise that my best chance at getting wins for others comes when I’ve worked out how to get some big wins for myself first.
The spiral dynamics theory (Don Beck and Chris Cowan) suggests that we are capable of growing through seven levels of living from survival to statesmanship. A key idea from this theory is that in order to actually make a genuine and lasting contribution to the world (level 6), you need to have first mastered the level 5 lessons of finance, business, confidence, etc. Without mastering these, you will always be banging your head against a lack of resources and this will prevent you from making the significant difference you want to make in your world.
Winning is way better than losing. Simple, but profoundly important. Wining is important and necessary. Don’t imagine you can survive without it.
Before you pour your heart into doing what you love, dreaming of how cool it will be to making a difference for others without reference to how well it will work out for you, make sure you’ve picked an avenue that gives you a great chance of clocking up some really cool wins. (Just to clarify…That’s real wins in the real world, not pretend wins in the land of ‘it will all work itself out one day’.)
In the words of Reese Bobby "If you aint first…you're last"