The number of mistakes and screw ups I have made is absolutely staggering. Paralyzing actually. If I allow myself to reflect or focus from an unhealthy perspective on the things I have gotten wrong in my life I will experience literal paralysis. Shortness of breath, sweaty, muscle cramping, brain riddled with fear paralysis. It’s happened in my personal life and my professional life. In relationships, in my jobs, with my friends and family, in every facet of my life I have made crippling mistakes. I even hold on to mementos from some of them. Like that letter I have from a former boss that says “Another mistake of this nature will result in termination.”
So I’ve had some big mistakes.
But that paralysis I mentioned before, there is a reason what it hasn’t stopped me in my tracks. It’s because a long time ago I learned a few of things about myself. First I learned that I am a loser and I am a quitter. And then I learned that I’m only those things until I’m not.
I learned those things as a college athlete competing as part of the University of Nebraska Kearney Loper wrestling team.
Let’s set the stage with a little Sam Stecher history preceding my college athlete experience. In highschool I was a slightly better than average wrestler who was irrationally devoted to the sport. The best part of my day was wrestling practice. I rarely got things wrong at practice. Practice was my zone. I lived for the grind. And all this effort resulted in more wins than losses. I was no phenom. I just really dug wrestling and the effort was always worth it.
After highschool graduation I attend a college with no plans to continue my wrestling career. It wasn’t long before I realized that I lacked the discipline I needed to be successful in college. To stick with theme, I was making a lot of mistakes. So much so that I like to refer to my freshman year of college as my “non academic” year. My solution was to find the the discipline I needed in the structure of a team again. In order to find it I transferred to UNK and walked on the wrestling team.
The disciple and accountability I needed was absolutely part of what the team gave me. I went to class. I went to studyhall. I put in the academic work. All this happened because of the structure the team gave me. This is all well and good but it’s not really what I’m trying to get across here.
What I am trying to get you to understand is that I learned that I was a loser and I was a quitter.
Within the first practice I realized, that without question, I was the worst wrestler on the team. I was clearly the bottom of the food chain. Everyone had more talent and athletic ability than I did. It wasn’t even close. That love I had of practice?
When you subject yourself to complete and utter defeat by way total physical domination you find it challenging to love the experience. I lost in every conceivable position in practice, over and over again. As for actual competition I am quite certain I hold the record for most losses in 4 years of eligibility as a member of the UNK wrestling team.
I was a loser and I wanted to quit.
In fact I made deal with myself everyday before practice. As sat in front of my locker getting into my practice gear I would make a promise to myself.
I’m quitting tomorrow. I will get through this practice but this is the last one. Tomorrow I turn in my gear and call it a day. I’m getting through this practice today, but tomorrow I’m quitting.
A funny thing happened though. The next day I would find myself in front of my locker having the same conversation with myself.
I’m quitting tomorrow…
That replayed day after day. It’s how I got though my first season. I was a quitter. I was ready to be a quitter everyday.
Until I wasn’t.
I’m getting through this practice today…
What’s crazy is when you know quitting and losing are options, not even just options but palatable realities, and then you don’t quit it becomes a source of strength.
I am a loser and I am a quitter. Until I’m not.
Every loss, every challenge that made you want to quit, every mistake you made, all of those are in the past. Everything in front of you is opportunity. People like to say you're only as good as your last performance.
Not me. I’m as good as my next practice. I’m as good as my next win. When you keep at you find those wins.
You might be taking risks and getting in over your head. You might be screwing up and making mistakes that sting for a long time. Remember when I said if I allow myself to reflect or focus from an unhealthy perspective it could be paralyzing? Keep it healthy and put your focus on what’s next. You are only defined by your defeats if you give up on getting the next thing right.
You are a loser and you are a quitter. Until you’re not.
See you at practice tomorrow.
You can read more of what Mark and Sam have to say in their book It Happens In The Hallway. Just click here.