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Speech of the Week: You only learn when you win

2013 was high times for me.  I was in hot pursuit of the woman whom I would later marry.  I was working as an apprentice trainer on the coaching team for a UFC fighter.  But looming largest in my mind (at the time) was securing my starting position on the Belmont Shore 2nd XV (it’s a rugby thing) as we ramped up into national playoffs that spring. 

I’m not completely clear on when our head coach, Ray Egan, made the statement.  It could have been before or after a grueling 80 minute match in the sweltering Texas sun.  It could have been during a cold, rainy Thursday night practice as we ground out our skills on our pitiful home practice field in Long Beach.  But wherever or whenever he said it apparently it stuck with me. 

(Coach Ray in the background)

“You only learn when you win.”  

To our American mind, that doesn’t sound right.  And yes, there are lessons to be learned from mistakes.  But he’s Irish.  He went on.  

“Because that’s when you learn what it takes.” 

Ohhhh…….and the lights begin to come on.  

Everything up until the point of victory is still losing.  Maybe you can learn something for your character development, but you’re not learning about winning.  

Here’s a simple illustration that we practice every day on the training floor: If your goal is to deadlift 315lbs (that’s a nice, round number because it corresponds exactly to 3 ‘plates’ on each side of the barbell) then you won’t ever experience the level of focus, engagement, and effort that that takes until you put 315lbs of force in the right direction.  You can try all you want, but if you’re using 200lbs, 275lbs, all the way up to 314lbs of effort, you’re not going to cut it.  It takes 315lbs of effort.  

And when you win, you’ll know what it’s like.  And then you can do more of it.    

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