When I was growing up and playing sports, “Act like you’ve been there before” was the prevailing ethos. Just scored a touchdown? Don’t get too excited. Act like you’ve been in the end zone before. Just hit a home run? Act like you’ve trotted around the bases before.
Humility, even sometimes false humility, was valued.
Besides: Celebrate your own success too much, and when you make a mistake — as you inevitably will — how stupid will you now look?
Few falls hurt more than the ones from a high horse.
So while most of us freely showed disappointment in ourselves after doing something poorly, if only to show we cared, we tried to act like doing something well was no big deal. As if we had been there before.
Now compare that with the way many of today’s college softball players behave. As we did, they celebrate one another.
But they also celebrate themselves.
Case in point: Oklahoma. Get a base hit? Clap your hands. Point to the sky. Yell to your teammates in the dugout.
Hit a home run? Wave your arms. Do a little dance. Stomp on home plate.
Yeah, later in the game you might boot a grounder. Misplay a fly ball. Overthrow the cut-off.
But for now, your excitement, joy, and passion for what you do is on full display.
And even though people of a certain age tend to think the way they did things in their day is the right way — even though they’re usually wrong — I think it’s awesome.
Sports, at any level, are hard. Sports, at an elite level, are incredibly hard.
In the Women’s College World Series, do something well — do anything well — and you should feel good about yourself. You should be proud of yourself. You spent years earning the skill. You spent years earning the pride, the joy, and the excitement you feel.
Even if you later might make a mistake — because right now, in this moment, all the years of effort and hard work just paid off.
And because occasional mistakes don’t diminish prior achievements. When you try to accomplish hard things, failure is just part of the process. (Clearly most of those young women have embraced that fact as well; their ability to put an error or mistake behind them and quickly regain focus is also impressive.)
Bottom line? Life is hard. Business is hard. Striving to achieve success, in whatever way you define “success,” is really hard. Typically the failures far exceed the successes, both in number and degree. As Steve Jobs said, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance. There are such rough moments … that most people give up. I don’t blame them. It’s really tough.”
But without the ability to manage your emotions — to put both success and failure in their proper places — persevering in the face of challenge and adversity is nearly impossible.
So take a few pages from college softball players. When you fail, shake it off. Keep your head down and keep doing the work. Embrace your failures, and learn from them.
But also embrace your successes. When you do something well, however small, feel good about yourself. Feel proud of yourself. Celebrate. You earned the right — which means you deserve the right — to show a little emotion and celebrate.
Plus, your enthusiasm, when it’s genuine and sincere, can help inspire the people around you to work for and achieve their own success.
And, when they do, to feel good about themselves.
Can’t beat that.