Once upon a time the unexpected happened. The year was 2007, the occasion was the quarter finals of the Rugby World Cup and the story went as follows.
Proud of a stellar victory run, the earthly gods of rugby – the All Blacks – faced a nation who on paper would be a delicious prey. Although they had caused them trouble before, this time was different.
They had visualised this game, prepared for it and done everything one does for such a confrontation. Yet. France won.
But instead of resigning like most expected, Coach Graham Henry did the one thing that separates those who comeback from setbacks from those who don’t; something I will tell you after this other story about the unexpected.
This time around, the occasion was the World Athletics Championship semifinals and the hero was a young Masai (Kenyan) runner called David Rudisha. For the most part of his race, Dave made his people proud.
He kept with the front of the pack, cut through the few obtacles…
And sprinted his way to the finish line in 2nd position, second… still second… until a body part came out of nowhere to cross the line before him. David lost the second place and his spot in a final that had his name written all over it.
Sometimes, the unexpected happens to good people.
Like David you may have been a bright and promising star, or the living god of your field like the All blacks. Whether one or the other, setbacks sting the same.
I’d love to tell you that the first thing coach Graham and David did was to “get back up” or “wipe their tears”, but it wasn’t. Rather, they did something you and I would do: They simply let the pain sink, until it could sink no more.
The main difference between those who comeback from setbacks and those who don’t is that the former agree that tears have an expiration date.
Tears only work for a while.
After the sorrow, David decided to review his races. It turned out he had been running wrong, always hidden among the other runners only to attempt a sprint towards the end. It took losing his most important race for him to realise that.
The New Zealand team had not prepared mentally as much as they did tactically and it took losing to realise that. After learning from their mistakes and applying the changes that were needed, a hungry David Rudisha went on to beat the World 800m record, which he holds till this day. And 4 years after their humiliating defeat, the mighty All Blacks went on to set the records straight as to who was the true Rugby world champion.
It all began with
- Accepting defeat for what it is – an opportunity to improve.
- Reviewing where they went wrong.
- Making a clear, measurable list of what needed to change.
- Committing to that change until a new result was obtained.
I bet you already knew this. But sometimes it takes a friend to say the obvious when you need it most for something to happen.
You are not a failure.
I’m still waving your flag.