Thursday, February 5, 2015

But the stranger ways of earth know our pride and know our worth...

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life's been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He's a rolling stone, and it's bred in the bone;
He's a man who won't fit in.

- Robert W. Service, "The Men That Don't Fit In"

Let's talk failure.

As the Seattle Seahawks found out on Sunday, it's not that easy. One playcall by coach Pete Carroll led to a heartbreaking interception which literally robbed the team of the one thing they had competed for all year: back-to-back Super Bowl championships. In a split-second their season was over and suddenly 362 days of celebration until Super Bowl 50 became three hundred and sixty-two days of second-guessing by the media, fans, coaches, and most importantly themselves.

How do you respond from such a crushing blow? How do you handle the "after?" It's easy when you're the champion. But for every fairy tale to come true, someone's heart must be broken. Failure is a basic tenant of life and something we all will experience. Here's how to handle it and become a stronger, more confident team leaving the locker room when the next season begins.

After the Super Bowl defeat Coach Carroll was surprisingly straightforward and frank in his explanation of the final playcall and how the Seahawks handled the defeat. In an interview with 710 AM Seattle he stated that the final outcome doesn't define you. Rather, it's how you step forward and embrace the after. Things are going to suck for a while after you lose, no matter what the stakes. The innate feeling of letting yourself and your teammates down is a painful, grating, all-too-familiar mask you must wear as the confetti colors of the other team falls around you. But the old adage that time heals all wounds is also very true. Each day will feel better and every time you lace it up after losing will give you the confidence to be better than before. Maybe it'll be fueled by competition. Maybe it'll be fueled by anger. But the more you practice, the more focused you'll be to perform at higher level. Don't be reticent. Be honest with yourself and your failure. The less time it takes to come to grips with losing, the more time you'll have to prove yourself for the next challenge.

Speaking of that next challenge, it's always going to be there. The Seahawks routed the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, and Coach Carroll was lambasted in the media the morning after for saying they'll take the Super Bowl win "in stride." What a difference a year makes. The natural human instinct is to celebrate victories and flush losses, but what if we were to flip that? Flush the victories, they already proved what you know (you're awesome!) Celebrate the failures. No more are you out of your comfort zone than when you fail, and those moments are the greatest opportunities to learn. Stripping your emotions to a visceral level and confronting your faults with no pretense allow fundamental changes to your process to be made and kept. Stagnation after a failure leads to more failure and a propensity to blame everyone but the most important person in the process: yourself.

In the formative years of Hyundai, the car company was a tiny manufacturer with little experience in building cars on an assembly line or knowledge of engineering processes. An ambitious plan set forth by the company called for a massive knowledge base to be accrued and independence from foreign car manufacturers to be accomplished. Hyundai engineers were sent to the four corners of the world to learn how to build a car from the ground up, and the company's first assembly plant was built in six months with workers who worked sixteen hour shifts, seven days a week. This obsessive pursuit was a practice that led to a high-knowledge, high-effort culture which has turned Hyundai into one of the most successful car companies in the world. Over the years, Hyundai evolved from an expansion team with highly motivated rookies to a division championship roster with a blend of savvy veterans and motivated players to a Super Bowl champion who were able to sign talented free agents, scout and develop talented rookies, and demand the best out of the entire organization while managing egos and keeping the basic fundamental knowledge known and strong throughout the entire company. Even in times of crisis, Hyundai stuck to their philosophy and focused the craft of perfection inwards and in the end it paid massive dividends. Knowing that failure is inevitable, even to those highly motivated enough to pursue perfection in their craft, is the best way to turn a momentary setback into a learning opportunity and reach even higher.

Super Bowl-caliber people understand what it is to fail and how to step forward after losing. The Seahawks will have the necessary time to recoup their losses and get back on the practice field, and you will too. Being one yard away from a Super Bowl or failing a math test are one in the same and the steps to getting better are the same too: be honest to yourself, make fundamental changes to what went wrong, and never shy away from your core philosophies. The recovery process is exactly that but the sooner you realize the sun is shining and the next Super Bowl is only a year away, the sooner you'll be having a blast getting focused to compete again.