Friday, March 23, 2012

It Pays To Be A Winner

The US Navy SEALs have two unofficial mottoes and both pertain to their training, BUD/s.  One is “The only easy day was yesterday” and the other is “It pays to be a winner.”  Most will get the first.  SEAL training is by far the most arduous of all the armed forces, even among elite units.  It’s 26 weeks of nonstop training with the infamous “Hell Week” coming in week 3.  Then they still have 23 weeks left. 

But not many know about the second motto which is said by the drill instructors during pretty much every evolution (training drill).  Some evolutions are done individually but most are done with your boat team.  As you can imagine, the people that make it into and through BUD/s are highly motivated and competitive.  The instructors use this to their advantage to create an atmosphere of winning.  If you or your boat team “wins” an evolution you are rewarded while everyone else is punished.  Usually this means you get to sit while everyone else has to do more training.

In the real world there are winners and losers.  In the SEAL world the losers are dead, end of story.  The instructors HAVE to create that personality in their recruits to always win no matter what.  Otherwise they won’t be coming home. 

Losing for most of us doesn’t carry that finality but shouldn’t be taken as lightly as it is.  You’re probably telling yourself that you don’t compete in anything so therefore you don’t lose.  Ha ha ha you’re chuckling to yourself.  To that I give you Teddy Roosevelt who would’ve been all upside yo’ head if he heard such a bullshit response.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 
Before we go further let’s look what losing is.  Losing to me takes many forms and permeates every aspect of society.  It could be getting fired or getting passed up on a promotion.  Losing is getting a divorce or worse, catching a cheating spouse.  Losing is failing a test or class.  Losing is getting cut from a sports team.  Losing is going on welfare.  Losing is losing the state championship.  Losing is your business going under.  Losing is missing a weight.  Losing is not giving full effort in what you are doing,  Losing is taking a back seat in life while everybody else gets ahead.  Losing is doing nothing about your sad state of affairs.

What most people don’t get or refuse to see is that none of those things are final.  A Navy SEAL loses and he dies.  I’d sure-as-shit be hell bent on winning if that’s what losing meant.  A civilian loses and life goes on.  But we the normal people get stuck in a state of learned helplessness and think there is nothing we can do about it.  To some losing a job and going on welfare means staying unemployed and staying on the governments doles forever.  That right there is worse than the actual losing of the job in the first place.

There is nothing wrong with losing in the sense that we are talking about…as long as you keep trying to win.  Lost your job?  Get another one.  Wife left you for another man?  Let the pain heal and move on with your life.  Didn’t make the team?  Train harder than the competition and make it impossible for the coach to cut you the next year.  Losing doesn’t have to carry the weight of a car crash.  It’s not game over.  It’s a roadblock.  There is always a way around it.

Everybody loses.  We’ve all heard about Michael Jordan being cut from the basketball team in high school or how some of the richest people in America were once bankrupt and out on their ass.  Or how Edison tried a thousand different combinations before he finally got the incandescent light bulb to work.  His quote on the matter sums up a winner’s attitude to losing, “I did not fail 1000 times.  I merely found 1000 ways that will not work.”  (For all the history nerds I know he wasn’t the first to patent the light bulb.  The quote was merely to illustrate my point.  Nerds.)

Everybody falls.  But those that fall forward are the best for it.  Those that see the mistakes that were made and fix them are the ones who win.   

But enough of that loser talk.  Let’s talk about winning and what it can do for you.  Winning has a number of positive effects physiologically and psychologically.

When a person perceives themselves winning they experience a spike in testosterone production.  This spike in testosterone can lead to what is known as the “winner effect”.  This is where winning something, whether it’s getting a job, winning a game of Scrabble, or fending off territorial intruders, leads to subsequent wins.  In a word, it gives you self-confidence.

Many times this is all someone needs to get the snowball rolling.  You do something good and you have this surge of hormones that multiply the feeling and you want that feeling again.  So now you start busting ass to win each little battle that leads to victory in the big things in life.  The opposite is also true.

The “loser effect” is the exact same thing as the winner effect, just in the opposite direction.  You lose little battles consistently and you’ll have a mentality that things never go your way and the boss hates you and you’ve never been good at math so why even try and on and on for the rest of your life.  Screw that.

As much control as psychology can play a role in our actions and mentality it’s never final.  Now I’m not saying someone with clinical depression, PTSD, or bipolar disorder just needs to turn that frown upside down.  I’m saying that if you don’t have any severe mental issues but you feel like you’re at the bottom of the totem pole it’s usually you that is keeping you there.  Once you realize it is your own excuses and fears of failure that are preventing you from breaking free from your cycle of losing can you start to do something about it.

This post could go on forever about getting out of toxic relationships and environments and all the rest of the factors that play into the loser effect.  It comes down to the simple fact that if you are unhappy it is solely up to you to fix it.  If you are tired of the life you live stop making excuses and do something about it. 

Right now. 


There is no tomorrow, there is no the-diet-starts-on-Monday, there is only today.  Start right now.
Maybe a few butts.  BIG ONES!  Winning.
I want you all to be winners.  Put yourself in positions to be successful.  Start with something small and let it grow from there.  And remember, failure is not the end; failing forward is a huge positive.  But you have to make it a positive.  Failing forward leads to big wins in the future.  Failing and then quitting is living death.  And living death is being a zombie.  And I have sworn to destroy the brain of any zombie I come across.
My work here is done.
True story.

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