What’s the size of a baseball, the weight of a grapefruit and can knock you to the ground at 50 mph?
My beau, Dan, was an all-star lacrosse player in high school and college and has been playing the game since he was a kid, he still plays. One of my favorite stories he tells is also one of the best analogies for dealing with failure, rejection, or when we are confronted by something that stops us in our tracks.
When you’re a kid first learning to play the game and you get hit with a lacrosse ball, you feel like you’ve been sucker punched by Mohamed Ali – you’re out of the game. Out as in you don’t return because you’ve been carried off the field, doubled over in insane pain hiding the tears from Coach and your teammates. As you grow a bit older (and bigger) and get hit by the ball, the game stops, the ref and Coach come running onto the field to check things out, you walk it off, sit out a few plays – maybe you go back in, maybe you don’t. Usually, though, you’re back at practice the next day.
When you’ve been playing as long as Dan has and you see the ball screaming towards you at 70 mph you now know your best defense is to tighten and flinch, take the hit and keep running. You know you’ll have a bruise that lasts a week but nothing about the pain stops you – you’ve experienced it many times before and will many times again. When you learn the hit doesn’t require emergency attention, continuing to move forward actually makes it feel better – there is no need to stop. Besides, you’re a valuable player and this could be game point.
How many times have we taken a hit – worse than a lacrosse ball to the gut or as stinging as a Thanks, But No Thanks letter – and we get stopped? We’re out of the game, licking our wounds, contemplating whether or not to return. I love this analogy because it fits well into how we as humans deal with rejection, failure, or when confronted by something that stops us from moving forward.
From my own experience, I’ve learned the more I fail, get rejected, or get confronted, the higher my level of confidence becomes and the less time I spend on the side lines. Yes I still fail, often get stuck when confronted, and feel the smarts to be rejected, but I no longer wallow, pout, or hide. And, if I do, it’s not for very long. I flinch, take the hit, and keep moving. It’s not to say I ignore the pain or distance myself from the emotional hurt, I am in touch with the process of moving through that: I just don’t let it take me out of the game for long, if at all. I love being in the game more than I do being on the sidelines.
The more we play in the game of life, the more we’re going to be hit by the ball. And the more we are hit by the ball, the more we learn that it doesn’t have to stop what we’re doing. Learning this and applying it shapes our character – the two most important aspects being leadership and confidence. Combined, they are two qualities that draw people to us such that we are noticed, admired, and respected. However, the best way to increase our level in one or both is to keep getting hit by the ball. Play a bigger game and the reward is an increased awareness of our own leadership and confidence.
When we have the confidence to keep going in the face of failure, our playing field gets bigger and getting hit by the ball no longer means the end of the game.
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