How Learning From Losing Is A Champion’s Mentality
Written by Dr. Larry
It’s Superbowl week, and when it comes to championship mindset, I’ve been thinking about the following quote I heard a couple weeks ago.
“I think you learn a lot from experiences like this.”.
That was Nick Saban, Alabama’s head coach, after they lost the National Championship game to Clemson. In this blog, I want to make 2 simple points from his statement.
1. Learning from our mistakes is essential to becoming our best.
2. Life is about much more than merely winning and losing.
Now before turning this into an after school special from the 80s, let’s put what Nick Saban said back into context. For the 2018 college football season, Alabama appeared unbeatable and would continue building on their dynasty of success: 6 championships in 10 years, going back to 2009–easily already one of the greatest of college football runs in history. It looked like they were going to win another one this year (I certainly thought so), but they were embarrassed by Clemson 44-16, for Saban’s worst loss (28 points) as head coach of the Crimson Tide. Goliath fell harder than ever.
Yet even in the midst of his own embarrassment and pain, he was able to preach the principles of greatness. We will learn from this loss. I’d be willing to bet he’s going to learn. That’s why football teams always watch tape, to correct mistakes and get better as a team. Otherwise, you could just exploit the same mistakes week to week. Better teams learn, evolve and get better throughout the season. It’s a process.
Now, let’s take this process from the team/institutional level, into our personal lives. To our career, health and relationships.
In medicine, we continually learn, especially from mistakes. Some of my worst cases have been the best teachers, as painful (and at times fatal) as medical mistakes can be. But there is a structured process called “Case review” where we take the time to sit down, review everything in the chart, in order to learn what happened and not make the same mistakes again.
When I was just out of residency, I remember thinking I was pretty hot stuff. But looking back in honesty, it still took me years before I became truly comfortable practicing on my own. I was lucky to have a mentor who saw that I had potential and needed some guidance. So he would find my mistakes, sometimes big ones that had bad consequences to patients, and formally review them with me in front of my doctor peers in the hospital’s monthly case conference. At the time, I must admit, it was horrible. Monday morning quarterback played by 10 doctors, all with more experience than I. I often felt embarrassed, ashamed, defensive, angry. And for a while, it seemed like I was in there every month with another case.
But my mentor never gave up. And over time, I got better, the mistakes were less frequent; I learned. Eventually the public form of my learning subsided, but the process of case review is an essential one for any doctor striving to be their best. A few months ago, I happened to return for a few shifts to this hospital, and–we even laughed about it–my mentor went digging again at my tough cases for the few days I was there. Always trying to make me better and hold me accountable.
How can we take these structured processes of improvement, of learning from mistakes like reviewing football tape or medical case reviews, into our personal lives, and on a regular basis? I’d suggest a weekly journal. On the weekend, taking some time to reflect on the week and learn from our mistakes.
For example, with body, I hit my protein and calorie goals 6/7 days, but had one day where I went way over due to a concert, fast food and too much beer. Next week, I need to tighten up that 1/7 cheat day to get more lean. Or, with relationships, the lady I was dating dropped me after I didn’t communicate with her for 3 days during a busy work week. If I want to keep a relationship, I need to be better about frequent communication. Got it.
Even in the midst of the worst loss of his career, a great coach talks about learning. I thought about what he said to the locker room, to the seniors who won’t have another opportunity to win the biggest game. And part of his message, I think–is that there is more to life that football and winning. Like doing your best, regardless of the outcome. Learning from loss. Taking something positive from even the worst situations.
That’s bigger than the game. That’s life. Something all of these players will have after college–a life. They will suffer more important losses–of loved ones, family, friends. Not getting this job, or that opportunity. Always learn from it, take something positive and move on, pursuing your best and your dreams.
Preaching about something bigger than wins and losses, I think, is a hallmark of champions. Of leaders. It inspires us to more.
Because your life, as well, is about more than wins and losses. Your best…is who you are here to be.