Playing professional sports, the team sports at least, places one in a position where you have to be chosen in order to have “made it”. So no matter how good you (think you) are, or how much work you’ve put in, there is a possibility that you won’t be one of the ones chosen.
Some bystanders would call this situation a failure. But I can’t call something a failure when the person doing it did not have full control over the outcome.
If an athlete in an individual sport — let’s say tennis or boxing — clearly loses a match (excluding a boxing match going to the scorecards, which induces heavy subjectivity), that could be called a failure (which, like all failures, is an event that has a beginning and an end, not a person). The other player won more games and sets. The opposing fighter knocked you out. Objective, clear, done.
A team sport athlete can be one of the 20 best in the room. But if that team sport says they’re only taking 15 players, there are going to be 5 disappointed people leaving that room. You may opine that this is a failure, but all that happened to them was they weren’t picked. They had no control over the selection process.
What many people probably know, but don’t really comprehend, is that playing a team sport is a job — you are a salaried employee. Employees’ job security stretches no further than the length of your signed contract and nothing more, excluding any “out” clauses for your bosses. An athlete can get fired the same way a chef or an accountant gets fired. Nothing is owed to you. Your position at that job is in full control of someone else. You were picked. Just as quickly, you can be un-picked.
As I tell people all the time, you should not emotionally invest yourself in anything over which you do not control 100% of the outcomes. You control only the work, not the results.
Example: I’m an author and I announce that I’m going to write a book that will be completed and released in 6 months. The only way I can fail here, is if the book is not done in 6 months. The sales numbers, the reviews, and my book’s position on the bestseller lists — the results — are out of my control. The only thing I control 100% is the execution of the book. That’s all. Everything that happens after that is the result of some person’s opinion (this is a good book. I should buy this. I should blog about this. I should tell my friends about this.)
So many people focus on results which they cannot control — such as being picked, which is always subjective — and lose focus from where it should be: The work. When you focus completely on the work, the results start to happen. You’ve heard the phrase, “let your work speak for itself”, right? There is no such thing as, “let the fact that someone picked you speak for itself”. That would mean placing your worth in the hands of another person. And no matter how much you could indeed be picked in that scenario, you’ve given up all of your personal power.
When you are only focused on your work, all of your energy goes into what you control, instead of what someone else controls, which immediately makes you more efficient. And when all of your energy is going towards your work, the results will come. Not chasing results, not basing your happiness or success or failure on the results, actually draws the results to you.
This post is not about playing a sport or starting a business or quitting your job. You can, at any time, make the choice to pick yourself and focus on what you do, instead of what someone else decides. At that point, you take back all the power.