Do You Love to Win or Hate to Lose?

What drives you – the desire to win or the hatred of losing? I always struggled with this question because I never quite knew how to answer it. The overriding message I heard through coaches and media was that the very best hated to lose above all else. For me, that mindset didn’t help my game, but instead, it shifted my focus to avoiding failure (never a winning attitude). Conversely, I’d won enough and had enough awareness to know that winning a game or championship wasn’t going to bring ultimate fulfillment and be the driving force I needed to be my best. Most importantly, when I stepped onto the court, both of those mindsets took my focus away from the only thing that mattered — the moment.

Kobe Bryant was asked this same question in this (4 minute) interview. Listen, and I guarantee it will at least make you think twice about how you approach competition and your mindset towards winning and losing. Kobe is one of the most accomplished basketball players of all time, and his work ethic and competitive spirit were legendary amongst his peers.

Two things to listen for:

  • Kobe is given two choices (love to win or hate to lose) but notice he says “Neither…I play to figure things out, to learn something.” Huh? One of the fiercest competitors, wasn’t focused on winning or losing but entirely on learning! Adopting a growth mindset (focus on getting better as opposed to being better) can free us to compete/perform in a more relaxed, focused, and confident state. Also, let’s not limit ourselves to the boxes someone asks us to fit in. There were two answers, but Kobe chose neither.
  • For Kobe, both approaches lead to a fear of failure. He didn’t want to focus on the outcome at all and said, “…in the center then it doesn’t matter. you’re unphased by either. You can stay in the moment, stay connected. Not feel anything besides what’s in front of you.” He even goes on to say, “Failure doesn’t exist.” In Kobe’s mind, the only way he loses is if he stops.

I don’t believe one answer to this question is necessarily better than the other. The best competitors are able to derive motivation from all sorts of factors. I do believe, however, that in the midst of competition, anything that pulls our focus away from what’s right in front of us will ultimately inhibit us in some way. We can only enter a “flow” state when we are completely engrossed in the present moment without concerning ourselves with the outcome.

I love studying what the best do. Kobe’s approach is all about embracing the moment and getting better. It’s no coincidence that “success” has followed him off the court as evidence by him winning an Oscar in his first year after retiring from playing ball. With Kobe’s mindset, every challenge or obstacle isn’t a judgment on one’s identity (winner or loser) but an opportunity to grow and improve. 

Explore Further: Kobe’s Response… 
After Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parker missed a last second field goal in his team’s playoff game last week, “fans” booed him off the field and social media erupted in fury. Kobe (who experienced similar failures early in his career) sent this tweet to encourage and challenge Parker to use this to come back even stronger. Remember what he said from the interview, “…the only way it’s a failure is if you decide not to progress from that.”

Thought to Inspire
“It’s all about the journey, not the outcome.” – Carl Lewis

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