My youngest son, Yummy (aka William), plays goalie in water polo. This is his third year with his team. The kids are now becoming quite knowledgeable about the game (at least that’s what they think!), and some even track the other players on competing squads. One of his teammates does what my older son’s water polo coach calls “Polo Algebra,” which is comparing competing teams' scores using goal differentials to create hypothetical outcomes before you play against them.
For example, team A beat team B by 5 goals, team B beat team C by 3 goals, and team D (let's say that’s my son’s team) beat team A by 1 goal; therefore, they should beat team B by at least 6 goals. When their “algebra” does not go in their favor, a couple of his “knowledgeable” teammates offer reasons why they should not, hypothetically speaking, be able to beat the other team. These teammates are quite loquacious in their opinions. There is constant chatter on the pool deck and in carpools about reasons why they should or should not win an upcoming game.
I get to closely observe Yummy and what he’s thinking because I drive him several times a week to and from practice with some of his other teammates. Most recently, after picking them up, Yummy and one of his teammates alerted me that they were going to lose in the tournament this weekend. “Why do you think that?” I asked. Yummy and his buddy both chimed in quickly with what they heard from the most “knowledgeable” players on their team (another 13-year-old). They said he had been tracking all the key players on the other teams and they are just too good to beat. I heard, “Dad, they have a player who has NEVER lost a sprint,” “One player is over 6-feet tall,” and “This other player comes from a family of D1 water polo players.” His teammate went on and on about all kinds of examples of why they cannot beat the other clubs in their upcoming tournament. (Examples ranged from the history of the opponents’ water polo club (winningest in the league) to their coaches also coaching college teams.)
Doing my best to control my emotions, I calmly asked them, “Tell me, what do you think will happen if you go into your first game this weekend believing that you are going to lose?” Silenced ensued for a moment, and then Yummy meekly responded with, “Ah, we’ll lose the game, Dad.” My moment to strike! “Yummy, (and his teammate), do you think that is a helpful or hurtful attitude to start a game—going in believing you are going to lose?’ More reflection and he muffled, “Hurtful Dad.”
Then I got on my proverbial soapbox (from the driver's seat!) for the next 10 minutes on the importance of getting a winning mindset before they start the game. I even made his teammate sit in the car until I explained to them how critical it is to get your mind winning before your body and your team can have a chance at winning. His friend looked at me, questioning my thought process; his friend was convinced they did not have a chance at beating their opponent.
Fast forward. They played that first team—who had a “6-footer,” one who “never” lost a sprint, and the club with a college coach—to a shootout. (Water polo is like soccer—when tied through overtime, each team does 5 “penalty” style shots on goal.) Yummy blocked a shot, giving our team a chance to win the shootout and the game so long as our last shooter made his shot. He missed. His shot sailed over the cage and the opposing team won in a shootout by one goal. Guessed who missed the shot? The boy who was convinced that the other team was better.
The First Step: Thinking About How To Win
The first step in winning is simple: start by thinking about how to win. This might seem like common sense, but so many people talk themselves out of success before they even try. They think things like “I’m not good enough,” “Someone else is better than me,” or “I don’t deserve it." They go into whatever they’re doing with the mindset that they’re going to lose, and guess what? They usually do lose because their attitude and beliefs were already set for failure from the start. But if you want to win, you must get rid of that way of thinking. You must believe that you are good enough and that you deserve it just as much as anyone else does. When you believe in yourself, anything becomes possible. So, if you want to win, the first step is to truly believe that you can: Believing leads to Achieving.
The Second Step: Taking Action
The second step is taking action toward winning. This is arguably the most important step because without taking any sort of action, nothing will happen! Just sitting around and thinking about winning won’t get you to the winner’s circle—you must put in the hard work if you want to see results. This might look different for everyone, but some examples could be practicing more often, learning from your losses, seeking help from a coach or mentor, reaching outside of your comfort zone, or studying your opponents to know what they’re going to do before they even do it themselves! But whatever it looks like for you, make sure that you’re taking some form of positive action every day to transform believing into achieving the success you desire.
The Third Step: Never Giving Up
The third step is perseverance, which ties in closely with taking action because once you start taking steps towards winning, there will be times when things get tough—and that’s when a lot of people give up entirely. Many will stop trying because they allow their focus to drift to what is not working, or how hard it is. This opens the door for doubt, an insidious emotion that will do its very best to convince you “It can’t be done; save your energy and stop.” I remind my boys all the time that “Champions don’t just have short-term memories, they have selective ones.” Focus on the memories that are helpful in achieving your goal. What separates the winners from the losers is how they handle these setbacks. You must keep pushing through, even when things are tough because winners never quit—they find a way, and quitters never win because they stop looking for a way. So persevere through the hardships, focus on helpful actions, and remember why you started on this journey in the first place. Eventually, with enough hard work and dedication, victory will be yours!
There are three simple steps to follow if you want to be successful: think about what you need to do, take action, and don't give up. If you keep going and never give up, success will eventually be yours! So, start by thinking about how YOU can win (hint: believing in yourself is key), then take daily action steps that will help lead YOU towards victory, and never give up no matter how difficult things might get! Do all three of these things consistently and winning will find you!