Pivotal Truths for Young People: Losing

truthWhen is the last time you heard something that really changed you? As a young person I encountered multiple truths over the past 20 years that have truly changed my life. Most of these truths were given to me by men far greater than I am, and I want to pass them along to young people who may not have the opportunity to hear them.

These truths are pivotal in that they can help you swing from one manner of thinking and acting to another, and each of these represent a major shift in the way I approached my life at the time I received them. I am going to do a series of blog posts over the next few weeks explaining these truths in hopes that other young people will be changed by them as I was changed.

I challenge you to read this truth aloud to yourself and let it seek into your mind.

Even when I try my best, work my hardest, and refuse to give up, sometimes I am going to lose. And that’s okay.

The setting for this truth moment in my life came on a football field in the ninth grade. I was playing football for the first time and trying new positions every day. I never knew what I was doing, but if my coach told me to do something, I would give it a shot.

One day, my ninth grade team was working against the Junior Varsity squad. Basically, a large group of sophomore and junior football studs would line up and pummel a group of ninth grade newbies under the guise of training. One of these older guys was a real monster on the field. He was known as Smitty. He outweighed every kid on the field by fifty or sixty pounds, and no one could block him. In fact, some kids would not even try.

My ninth grade team was practicing our punting formation against the Junior Varsity team practicing punt block. Smitty, a leader on the JV team, was practicing aggravated assault. We ran our punt play three times. The first two times, Smitty blocked the punt after running over the last line of defense, our up-back, also known as the punter’s personal protector. The third time, the personal protector, thanks to his own quick dodge, did not even lay a hand on Smitty. That was when the coach called my name.

My coach asked me to line up as the personal protector. I had watched the last three plays, so I knew who I was going to have to block. It was the man-child Smitty against my 130lbs and two weeks of football experience. I already knew that taking the position of personal protector would not equate to personally protecting anyone. This was confirmed when my coach stepped up beside me and said, “Smitty’s the guy you’re gonna block. Don’t miss him.”

Now, I was worried. I honestly stood no chance whatsoever at blocking Smitty. When the coach blew his whistle, my teammates began calling out their blocking assignments. One by one they called out their assignments until we were assured everyone had an assignment. Even though Smitty’s number had been called, I knew he was the one who break through his block, and I would have to deal with him as he approached with five yards of steam behind his approach to me.

The moment came, the ball was snapped, and Smitty took off like a freight train. He shoved past his first blocker, moving faster than the younger kid in front him could handle. Now it was up to me. I knew this was not going to work well, but I stood my ground as best I could. I stepped up to him, lowered my shoulder pads, and tried to explode into him with all the force a 14 year old can muster.

I felt the impact, but I am not really sure what happened.

All I know is that I ended up laying on my back about three yards behind the place where I was supposed to be blocking. As I stood up, I saw my punter, the guy I was supposed to be protecting, pulling himself up from the ground after being blocked for the third time on four plays.

Failure.

We lined up and ran this play three more times. Three more times, I stepped up to face Smitty, and three more times, I was picking myself up from the most recent place he had tossed me.

After the fourth time, my coach came up to me as I stood up again. I knew I had failed every time, so I was expecting him to tell me to pick up volleyball or softball instead of football. I preempted my coach by saying, “Sorry coach. He beat me every time.”

My coach just barked out a little laugh as he said “Of course he did. He’s twice your size.”

Then he shared a simple insight that changed the way I approach every challenge in my life.

“This is football, Clayton. Sometimes you get beat. I just want a guy on the field that is not afraid to step up again after that beating.”

From that point forward I realized one of the greatest secrets of highly successful people. They are not successful because they beat everyone. They are successful because they are not afraid of being beaten.

Life is not a fairy tale. Let me ruin the surprise for you: your best will not always be enough, trying your hardest will sometimes be too weak to succeed, and perseverance does not always pay off with a win.

Sometimes we try our best to learn we can do better than we ever imagined. Other times we try our hardest in order to increase our strength. And sometimes, perseverance is about holding on until the storm passes more than it is about sailing cleanly through the storm.

In short, in real life, you will not always win. So throw your goal of perfection and fear of failure to the wind and try something you think may be too hard to accomplish. Sometimes you will lose, but that should be fuel to try – not a blockade from starting.

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