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Leadership Thought #324 – Never Give Up!

March 26, 2012

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I attended a youth soccer game and a professional hockey game this weekend and it was interesting to watch how both groups handled the frustration and adversity they experienced differently.  As expected, the kids had a much more challenging time with it.  With a few exceptions, they were quick to get down on themselves and hang their heads.   After a couple of unlucky plays, they started to unravel and forget their training.  It became increasingly obvious that many of them just gave up on winning long before the game ended. The pros, on the other hand, kept plugging away and fighting through their unlucky breaks. Their hard work and resilience paid off.  Eventually things turned around for them and they won the game.

I am not saying this just to state the obvious, that professional athletes have more mental toughness than children do, but because I want to point out the importance of never giving up. Too many adults act like children when things don’t go their way.  They give up far too easily and lose their emotional bearings.  Instead of believing in their own capacity for emotional, mental, and physical resilience, they capitulate to the obstacles strewn in their path.

Some people may seem blessed because everything is falling their way.  However, I believe you can never fully appreciate another person’s struggle until you “walk a mile in their moccasins” as the famous Native American Indian saying states.  All the successful people I know have challenges just like everyone else.  They just refuse to give up on themselves or their dreams and they keep moving forward.  Life rewards persistence.

Successful careers, marriages, and other relationships take work.  There is no easy route to happiness or quick shortcut to accomplishment.  If you run every time it gets hard, then you will just have to confront a similar version of that same issue down the road.  When other struggles present themselves, your habit of running away or giving up in the first place won’t serve you well.  It’s no surprise that people who get divorced end up doing it more than once, that people unhappy with their careers end up job-hopping with increased frequency, and that people who bemoan their own loneliness or social disconnectedness continue to do things to sabotage their professional and personal relationships.

The good news for the kids on the playing field this past Sunday is that they are not adults yet.  They still have time to grow up and develop the strength of their character.  Hopefully, they will have parents, teachers and coaches who create an environment where this is both expected and cultivated.  Society does not benefit from kids who are raised to fall apart or succumb to self-doubt when things get hard.

Sporting events are so popular because they are a metaphor for life.  There will always be winners and losers.   The important thing to remember is that even when you lose, you can still give it your best effort and feel like a winner anyway.

To borrow from two quotes by Winston Churchill (someone who knew a lot about resiliency), “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” and “Never, never, never, never give up.”