I use to describe myself as a perfectionist with a type A personality. I needed everything I did to be perfect for me to feel good about it. And I stressed about the smallest details. For example, I practiced my presentations over and over until they were perfect no matter how much time it took or how much sleep I lost. And if things didn’t go well, I was hard on myself. With behavior like this, I wasn’t a fun person to be around. This all changed when I redefined the word failure and began to view tasks and challenges differently. Life was no longer win or lose. It became win and learn. This mental shift in my thinking has changed my life in a very powerful way.
I first heard about the concept, “win and learn”, in two podcast interviews of Lanny and Troy Bassham by Brian Johnson. The Basshams were world champion marksmen. Since retiring from active competition, they train athletes and business leaders on how to approach competition, business and life with a champion mindset. They say, elite performers focus on opportunities. Other people focus on obstacles. Elite performers have positive self-talk, while others beat themselves up for mistakes and failures. When true leaders miss a shot in sports or the mark on a presentation, they don’t say, “That shot was horrible. I really messed that up.” Instead, they carefully evaluate what happened, then they say one of these three things to themselves. “That was okay. That was great. Or that needs work.” This is the win and learn mentality. It opens you up to further growth and mastery.
When you say, “it needs work.” It takes you for judging what happened to objectively evaluating what occurred. This is the space where ego is left behind. You become open to what you can learn to produce the results you really want. I am 46 years old. I’ve exercised my entire life but I didn’t learn how to swim until I was 38 years old. I was terrified of water and feared drowning. When I began taking swim lessons, I would get upset with myself when I didn’t do the flutter kicks or overhand swim stroke correctly. And if I didn’t complete a lap with excellent form, I became visibly frustrated. I thought I needed to do it perfectly as soon as my instructor showed me a new technique. Because I was beating myself up for not getting it right, I often missed a lot of the swim lesson. During our video sessions, she would give me positive feedback and encouragement. And she always gave me minor corrections that I could make to improve each week. Because she was so positive and celebrated my progress, no matter how small, I stopped caring about how I looked while swimming. I became focused on the journey and learning what I could do better each practice session. I was transforming from a perfectionist to a disciplined man on a journey to do my personal best every day. It was freeing.
I went on to learn how to swim and participate in triathlons and other fun adventures involving water. The lessons I learned from that experience spilled over into every aspect of my life. It’s now my mentality when working with clients, delivering speeches and presentations and learning a new skill. I have grown so much personally and professionally over the last 5 years. And another benefit is that I am more fun to be around. My friends told me that it was challenging to spend time with me when I became upset if things didn’t go right. While still very focused, my energy is now positive, calm and open.
A life worth living requires a beginners mind. Be open to learning new things. Be fascinated by everything. And remember, it’s not win or lose, it’s win and learn. Enjoy the journey!