“The Real Test of Character” by Alan25main

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How do you react to a loss? It’s never fun to feel the sting of defeat, but the way you handle it could drastically affect your game. Read Alan25main’s take below.

You’ve watched it online. You’ve seen it on live TV. Most working people see it daily in their careers. We all know people who handle success well. We also all know people who handle loss badly, and a few who handle it very badly, indeed.

Oddly, it doesn’t even seem to matter how high the stakes are, some folks complain even if the lost thing is free and/or valueless.

Phil Hellmuth’s rants after a painful loss are legendary. Various politicians from all sorts of parties refuse to admit defeat even when it becomes clear they’ve lost. You’ve seen it a hundred times. “The system is rigged!” Ironically, they say this even if whatever could’ve been won is valueless.

Anybody can be a gracious winner. All that takes is enough savvy not to rub salt in the defeated’s wounds. The real test of anyone’s character is how each of us deals with defeat. Nobody wins them all; sometimes, we can’t win any. That’s the way life works. Every person learns to deal with that frustration–it just takes some longer than others.

If we allow our emotions to become invested in an outcome, then our reason takes the back seat while our emotions rule from behind the steering wheel.

This is a true story: When I was about 7 years old, one of the few pleasures we had was going for a Sunday afternoon drive after church. My sister, age 3, and I sat in the back seat of the Plymouth while Mom and Dad sat in front with Dad driving. We came to an intersection with a very busy highway. We had to wait at a stop sign for a chance to enter the heavy traffic.

Behind us was a large black Cadillac driven by an impatient individual. After we had waited a minute or two with no breaks in the passing traffic for us to pull into, that driver crept forward enough to begin pushing our car into the highway and the oncoming traffic. 

My father, recently returned from the Korean War, turned off his ignition, set the emergency brake, took his pistol out of the glove compartment, and pointing it at the ground, walked back to the driver’s side of the black car.

“If you push me into the traffic and endanger my family, there will be a problem,” he said. “Back off or go around us.” 

The other driver immediately backed up a car length, and went around us. He then tried darting into the traffic while honking his horn. He got T-boned, of course. 

Dad backed our car up, turned around and drove back the way we had come from.

Looking back at this incident from nearly 70 years later, I can see what I think Dad did wrong. But, I can also see what he did correctly. Like a poker player, Dad raised the stakes to where there was something important at risk, and he did it with solid value in his hand. 

The other guy reacted emotionally to get his way by avoiding the potential problem instead of being patient and simply waiting his turn to pull into the traffic. And, instead of waiting an extra minute or two which would’ve cost him no more than a minor inconvenience, it cost him the price of his car.

Once we allow our emotions to take control of us, we’ve given up our reason. When that perspective is lost, disaster may not be far behind. Don’t allow yourself to become so emotionally invested that you lose sight of your goal. Don’t let your emotions take the steering wheel.

Rudyard Kipling and Robert Service are my favorite poets, and Kipling is ahead this week. This is one of his best. You need not read the whole thing–though it’s good enough that you ought to–but, please do read the three sections I bolded.–Alan25main

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IF by Rudyard Kipling (about 1895)

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

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