It’s Never Over: How the Mentally Tough Turn Loss into Victory

In Blog, Mental Toughness
Check It Out

I used to watch those documentaries on National Geographic where they’d follow a pride of lions. You see the alpha lions grow, dominate, and be replaced. You see the mama lions hunt and kill. One of the most interesting parts, though, is seeing the baby lions learning to do as mama does.

The lion pups find a young or injured wildebeest and chase it down. But, inexperienced in killing, they don’t know what to do next, or how to do it. The wildebeest, if it will only just keep moving, keeps alive the possibility of making it to see another day. Its only job is to not give into what, on camera, appears to be the inevitable.


I saw the memes. I read the tweets explaining why Atlanta was dominating the Super Bowl. I read about how Atlanta’s new stadium, set to open next year, would sell out quickly after this game and the Falcons’ first Super Bowl trophy.

But I’ve also seen this movie before.

Team gets a large lead, forgets (or is unable to recreate) the elements that created said lead, and battle-tested opponent slowly makes a game of what was a blowout. See NBA Finals, 2016.


Super Bowl 51 was a replay of said storyline.

People or teams who are losing, especially on a big stage with lots of people watching, often crash and burn. They stop trying. You may see infighting and finger pointing. They curl up in a ball and hide. All of which makes victory easy for the team who’s in the lead, being handed victory instead of having to earn it to the very end.

The Patriots were the young (old?) wildebeest who told the young lions, “you’re going to have to take my life. I’m not laying down.”

Here are three reasons why a team who seems to be dead meat still has plenty of life, as long as it is mentally tough enough to keep fighting.

• When you’ve been counted out, you can build while no one’s looking. When 50 Cent got shot 9 times in 2000 and miraculously survived, many people didn’t think much of it. 50 was only the latest in a string of rappers to be shot, and with 50 having not even released an album yet, his buzz was relatively small.

So when 50 came back with even harder music, a crew called the “G-Unit,” and a superhero aura from having survived 9 bullets, the entire music business was on its heels. They stayed on their heels until 50 had sold 20 million records.

In The 48 Laws Of Power, Robert Greene says the defeated competitor who is not properly extinguished will come back stronger than ever, and will surely extinguish you, the right way this time. The crippled snake that you nurse back to health will rise up and bite you with a double-dose of venom. [shareable cite=”@DreAllDay “]The defeated competitor who is not properly extinguished will come back stronger than ever[/shareable]

The time when people have decided you’re done and stop paying attention, is the most valuable time you have. Now you can recreate yourself and catch everyone by surprise – all the more devastating since no one was expecting it.

• Released from expectations, everyone loosens up. We see this is football all the time. A team is losing by a significant margin and time is running out. The losing team goes into a “hurry-up” offense, emphasizing speed, execution, and covering large chunks of ground while scoring as much as possible.

Watching this, I always wonder, why don’t they play like this the whole game??? 

It’s because of human nature: with a chance of winning comes the chance of losing. The very possibilities causes us to tighten up. We deliberate and delay. We aim to avoid mistakes. The focus on avoiding mistakes is the exact reason why they happen.

When we’re getting blown out, though, we relax. We loosen up and try things we otherwise wouldn’t try. Caution goes out the window, since we have no victory or success to protect.

Before you realize it, we’re having fun again. The game seems easy, actually. There’s no tightness – for us at least….

• Those who have a big lead have a bad habit of looking backwards. Sports teams, businesses and people all have the same tendencies when holding a big lead.

We forget what got us to the front of the race in the first place and take our foot off the gas pedal. We go on defense, playing to protect what we have instead of aggressively angling to gain more. We look back at the field to see what the people behind us are doing, using them to gage if we need to slow down or speed up.

And where attention goes, energy flows.

When you’re losing and the competition starts playing not-to-lose, that means they’re thinking about losing. They’re not fully sure of their victory. Which means it’s completely possible you can snatch victory from them, with their help.

People look back because they’re afraid of going back. And usually, what you’re afraid of is exactly what you get. [shareable cite=”@DreAllDay “]People look back because they’re afraid of going back. And usually, what you’re afraid of is exactly what you get. [/shareable]


When you see yourself down big to an opponent – real or imagined, physical or mental – remember that very few are experienced in killing, and even fewer are Mentally Tough enough to follow through and end you. You can surely get out of this one, and even turn the tables on your opponent.

How can I be so sure? Well, you’ve been down before, right? Did it kill you?

Never hand over the game. Make them finish the job.

Want to learn to finish? 100 Mental Game Best Practices is for you.