Losing is Temporary. Quitting is Forever
It was a Tuesday night in February of 2006. The gym was dark, except for one light in the middle of the floor. A sprawling wrestling mat laid across the basketball court, and Thunderstruck by AC/DC blared on the sound system. Our final wrestling match of the season in front of a large home crowd, and a tough county rival.
Of all the sports I participated in wrestling was by far my favorite. Although on this particular night it would not be. I was a freshman and through some chance, had landed myself a varsity spot at 145 lbs (yes I know, hard to imagine me 50lbs lighter).
I warmed up in the corner of the gym, sweats on, hood up, staring across the gym at my opponent. As the 140 lb weight class finished up I stripped off my sweats, pulled my singlet up over my shoulders, and ran out on the mat.
Let me back track for a minute…
The 2005-2006 season was my first ever. I literally had never so much as set foot on a wrestling mat before. If I’m honest, I thought I was going to be really good. My cousins all wrestled, had an uncle who was a Div 1 wrestler, and I was just built for it. 150 lbs and 5’6”. However, it was quickly revealed to me that results are earned not given.
Here I was, the last match of my freshman year. I ran out onto the mat and shook hands with my opponent. Justin Guthrie, a senior and 3 time state qualifier and team captain. The whistle blew and within seconds it seemed he had me taken down and was smashing my face into the mat. My mom in the stands watched through her fingers over her eyes as I got drug across the mat on my face. It didn’t take much longer for Justin to roll me over and pin me. All in under 90 seconds.
I walked off the mat with my head down. Finishing my first wrestling season with a record of 1-19, and the 1 win was a forfeit. I had been pinned 16 of 19 losses. My family still jokes that I knew how many ceiling lights were in every gym in western North Carolina.
In the few days after the season ended I got asked on multiple occasions, “hey man, you going to wrestle again next year?”
“Of course” I would reply.
And the reaction almost every time would be “but you weren’t any good.”
Well… no, I wasn’t. But at the beginning of the season I had told Coach Smith that I would be a state qualifier.
People actually thought I was going to quit. “You suck, no reason to continue”
The next season: 15-17. Still losing season.
Junior year: 24-17. Finally a winning season.
Senior year: 37-7. Finished top 10 in the state.
That’s not to brag. But do you think any lessons would have been drawn from the sport of wrestling had I called it quits after my freshman season of total ass kickings…?
And on top of it, I would have to live with the fact that I stated I was going to do something, and I quit.
Recognize early in the game that losing is ok. In fact it can be a great thing if you’re able to turn it into lessons along the way.
I hated losing. Walking off the mat and sitting back down on the bench in hopes that the points I just gave up didn’t hurt our team as a whole. My coach even told me after my freshman year that he knew almost every match I stepped foot on the mat was a guaranteed loss.
But I never quit.
When you quit something it does way more than end the temporary suffering you are going through.
Elongates temporary suffering, makes it internal and forces you to deal with knowing you quit.
Robs you of the confidence that not quitting would have provided
Robs you of lessons the difficulty of persevering would have given
Lowers your own identity to believing (even subconsciously) that you weren’t worth the result
It’s not so simple as pulling the plug.
Life will always give you opportunity to quit. But you have the opportunity to persist.
My parents would come to me after every wrestling season and ask if I wanted to keep going. And through tears I would emphatically say “yes, I have to”.
The same was true for baseball. I worked as hard as I possibly could, but never saw the playing time. I just wasn’t ever that good. My parents would tell me before the season started, “you can not start the season, but if you start the season you’re not allowed to quit.”
They helped establish in me the don’t quit mentality. If you commit to doing something, don’t quit.
This is not to say that I never want to quit. In fact, I often talk myself out of quitting. I have some pretty ambitious goals ahead of me, and on almost a daily basis I ask myself if it’s worth it.
Having the thought of quitting doesn’t make you a quitter. Neither does taking a few losses.
Throwing in the towel, that’s what makes you a quitter. Don’t do it.
What are you working through in your life that you want to quit?
Maybe it's a job. Maybe it’s a diet or fitness program. Or a relationship you really want to work.
Whatever you may be going through right now, dig in just a little more. Hang in there just a little longer. I believe in you.
Until next time: Stay Humble, Stay Hungry
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