There was a guy named Rob who went to Penn State Altoona when I was there.
Rob was a cool guy from New York who’d be at all the parties on and off-campus. Rob was a freshman, about 6 feet tall and wore glasses. I didn’t know much about him other than that, but we’d always shake hands and say hello when we crossed paths.
Rob had a roommate who was on the basketball team that year. As such, Rob would always hang around the gym when we played pickup, but I don’t remember ever seeing Rob playing basketball — at least not seriously.
One day during the season, we were finishing up practice and our coach had the team line up as usual along the baseline as he made his closing remarks for the day. Before dismissing us, though, Coach motioned Rob, who had been hanging in the corner of the gym, dressed in hoops gear, to come over to us.
“This guy,” the Coach said, motioning towards Rob, “he wants to be on the basketball team.”
Then Coach pointed at Lamar, our junior starting point guard from Pittsburgh, also 6 feet tall but a serious player who could actually play.
“And he wants your roster spot.”
Then Coach placed a basketball on the court and merely said, “let’s go.”
Rob and Lamar were to play one-on-one for Rob’s chance at joining the team.
We, the players, all thought this to be kind of ridiculous. Rob NEVER played basketball with us. I don’t remember him even being at tryouts. But maybe, since his roommate was on the team, and because the team had been losing a lot, Rob had built up the courage to talk his way into an opportunity.
It worked, I guess.
The game began. Cach announced that the target score was five points, counting by ones.
I wish I could build suspense into this story, but there was none. Lamar won, 5-0. I think Rob touched the ball one time. He shot a jump shot that missed.
I don’t know for sure. But my theory is, Coach wanted to show Rob just how far Rob actually was from being good enough for the basketball team and used Lamar as Exhibit A to smack Rob across the face with basketball reality.
After that day, I and for the subsequent two years I was in college, I never saw Rob in the gym again.
There have been many things said about the “Participation Trophy” culture we are in the midst of today. It started in youth sports and has spread to much of adult life.
On one side, you have the people who want to only recognize winning and finishing first. They’re repulsed by the idea of being “rewarded” for coming in 4th.
On the other side, you have those who want to recognize too many people for too many things, to the point where almost no award or privilege means anything since everybody gets one.
Often, you’ll find the same person on BOTH sides of this discussion, based on whom the “trophy” maybe for.
Last week I was listening to a podcast where the host advised people to look to create more win-win situations in life, which builds goodwill and strong relationships, as opposed to win-lose or lose-win outcomes that often leave someone embittered, angry, or pining for revenge.
I agree with this idea — for the situations this podcaster was discussing: he was talking about the business world.
Win-lose outcomes in business create enemies, lawsuits, and anxiety about who might be out to exact sweet revenge. Win-wins expand your influence, put favors in your back pocket that you can later call in, and they just downright feel good.
But, while I am a businessman, I’m also an athlete. And sports is NEVER win-win. It’s a win-lose.
Every day. Every game. Every practice. Every thought.
Here’s the thing: money is the scoreboard in business. Whichever company is bringing in the most revenue is, by many opinions, winning. Yes, there are some businesses that take actions that work against maximizing revenue in favor of other aims, but we can agree that all businesses want to, on some level, generate revenue.
The great thing about business is, everyone can make money. Not everyone does, but everyone can.
Here’s why: money exists in abundance.
If any government ever ran out of money, they’d simply print more or and/or put more numbers into bank accounts to stimulate the economy. There’s no limit to the amount of money available out there, so everyone can, to some extent, win.
Your business may not have as much money as the company next door, but even then, you don’t have to feel like you’re losing. After all, you’re making money too!
Sports, on the other hand, have scoreboards.
In sports like basketball, the game that I played, the scoreboards don’t have multiple winners. We keep playing until there are all zeros on the clock and one team has more points than the other. That team is the winner; the team with fewer points is the loser.
Clear and objective. Black and white, no grey area. If I won, you lost. If you won, I lost. There’s no room for compromise or multiple winners.
I once heard an athlete say, “winning the trophy is not about me having it — it’s about everyone else NOT having it.”
Getting into the respective games works the same way in sports and business.
Anyone of us can start a business — right now, today. Anyone who acquires the necessary schooling and certifications (if any) can become a salesman, doctor, lawyer, or online influencer. There’s no cap on how many people can join the game. If there are, say, 10,000 doctors in the state of New Jersey, doctor #10,001 will not be barred from entering.
Sports, on the other hand, have hard participation limits as you go up in levels.
There are 450 jobs in the NBA, another 300 or so in the G-League, and 10,000ish overseas (male + female). That’s 1,700 or so jobs. Once they’re filled, no one else can play unless someone holding one of those jobs loses theirs.
Whenever I hear a basketball player says that he thinks he can play ball at the pro level, I always think to myself (and sometimes say out loud), whose job will you TAKE in order to have one yourself?
I’m a win-lose thinker by nature.
Not only because of sports. I had this mentality before sports, so playing sports was the perfect outlet for me. I still find ways to make my workouts competitive, even though there’s often no one else around.
Competition is fun.
It’s fun to see someone who looks as if they think they’re gonna win, but because of me/us, they lose. It’s an orgasmic feeling. If you’ve played sports, maybe you understand. If you haven’t, maybe now you know why it’s so hard for…
A) An athlete to stop playing, or
B) An athlete to find a new mental outlet after sports.
In these democratic let’s-be-friends times, many people like to espouse the win-win, all-in-together mindset. But the competition is still out there. People just find more passive-aggressive ways to do it, masking their true desires behind smiles and friendliness.
By the time we catch on, it’s often too late.
Don’t get caught sleeping.
Staying mentally on-point was the goal I had in mind when creating The Bulletproof Bundle: my 4 best books on Discipline, Confidence and Mental Toughness. You can order the Bulletproof Bundle here: http://workonmygame.com/BB