I love basketball.
The feel of a worn leather ball, the smell of a freshly waxed gym floor, the swoosh of a ball hitting nothing but the bottom of the net. There just isn't another sport like it. We spent our youth playing on broken goals on cracked concrete pads, in the street, having to stop the game periodically for a car to drive by, or even on occasion in a real gym. We played anywhere there was a hoop. No harm, no foul, we played hard. We kept score. There were winners and losers, no participation trophies handed out at the neighborhood park. We learned life lessons on those courts without even realizing it. We learned how to manage conflict when someone got fouled just a little too hard. We learned how to dig down deep and find the energy to finish and not quit. We learned more playing a game than many do in the real world nowadays. If you lost, get ready to sit out because you were off the court.
I've heard people say that they just aren't competitive. No one wants to lose. I've never understood that because it's just not me. I've always wanted to win. I've always hated losing. I despised failure growing up; I didn't handle it well. When I reached the real world, it scared me to the point I didn't want to try. It was better to say I wasn't competitive (to use the same analogy) than to try and fail. I did that through college and my first couple jobs, all of which didn't exactly go my way.
I learned, though, the hard way that to win, you have to fail. The secret is to err more on the practice court than in a real game. You take thousands of shots during practice so that the few you take during a game count. Life isn't any different—those who prepare, take more shots, and practice every day win the game. I once had a mentor tell me that life is a game. He paused, then asked me why I disagreed, I'm assuming by my grimace. I told him life was too serious to be just a game. His next words were burned into my mind; "You say life isn't a game, but I see winners and losers everywhere." He was right. Talent alone doesn't mean success in sports or life. It is only part of the equation. Those who use the talent they have, combined with practice and preparation, win.
Everyone wants to win, in sports and in life. However, few are willing to do what it takes to win.
You have to be willing to prepare to win. That's the hardest part. When you've prepared, the game is easy. Zig said it best; "You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win."
Do you plan, prepare, and expect to win?