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Earlier this Spring I spent my three weekends in a row at fencing tournaments with my older son. Each Sunday, he went and competed with all his heart.
At the first one he didn’t do that great, he finished 99 out of 130. It was his first time competing at the senior men’s level. He was the youngest in the division because he aged out of the juniors’ bracket, he was accustomed to competing in. As a junior, he earned his national rating. In short, he’s a pretty good fencer. But now he was competing at a new level.
The following week, the competition had about 78 people and he came in 50th which was a definite improvement. But it still felt like he was just not fencing well. We were really hoping by week three, at a smaller tournament, he would start to get more comfortable.
I could read his body language from the stands, he was frustrated and mentally beaten. He went into each match with a defeatist attitude. And he lost every bout of his pool. They were close matches, losing often by only one touch.
Between the pools and the direct elimination round, I tried to give him a pep talk. I reminded him that each match was a new chance to succeed. I told him that he needs to believe he can accomplish what he wants to accomplish.
“Success is based on clarity of what you want to accomplish and the belief that you can do it.” (Click to Tweet)
Yes, hard work is a part of success as well. But he had been putting in the work. At this point, it was a mental game for him. He said, “Just believing it won’t make it happen.”
My response… “No, it won’t, but if you don’t believe it, it is less likely to happen.” I explained how having a defeatist attitude was working against him. I encouraged him saying, “Anybody can beat anybody on any given day.” Then reminded him how he beat a top-rated fencer decisively when their high schools went up against each other. With one last ditch effort before his next bout I said, “Let the rest go and start with a fresh mindset.”
I would like to credit my great pep talk with the fact that he demolished his opponent in the direct elimination round 15 to five. It was such a clear victory. James beamed and I couldn’t help but notice his opponent looking dejected, sulking against the wall. It broke my heart. I pointed him out to my son. Equating how his opponent was feeling to how my son felt just minutes before.
We all have days like that, where we feel beaten, and we can all come back from it. James proved it to himself.
My son got third place at a recent tournament at the senior level, perseverance pays off!He entered the next round on a high, believing int the possibility and though he lost, it was a pretty even match until the end. He didn’t quit mentally. He lost that round to the bronze medalist. He had a pretty good showing against a tough opponent.
Why am I sharing this story? Because I believe in life, attitude is as important as aptitude. Attitude can drive failure more than aptitude drives success. Whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, get really clear on what it is and believe that it’s possible.
I believe in you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michelle Tillis Lederman, (CSP, PCC, SCC, MBA) is an expert on workplace communications and relationships. Named by Forbes as one of the Top 25 Networking Experts, and one of the Top 30 Communications Professionals in the World by Global Gurus. Michelle is a speaker, trainer, executive coach, and author of four books including The Connector's Advantage and The 11 Laws of Likability. She was invited to the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches Group, “100 Coaches Community brings together the world’s premier leadership thinkers” to seek ways to advance positive impact and give back to society.
An executive coach, people expert, and CEO of Executive Essentials, Michelle inspires organizations and individuals to build real relationships and get real results. Having worked with fortune 500, non-profit, university and government clients she’s identified the common struggle… it’s people challenges. When asked by her young son what she does, she simply replied, “I help people work better together.” This purpose has driven her work with clients large and small including JPMorgan, J&J, Deutsche Bank, Michigan State University, MetLife, Sony, Ernst & Young, the Department of Environmental Protection, and Madison Square Garden.
She received her BS from Lehigh University, her MBA from Columbia Business School, holds the PCC designation from the International Coaching Federation, and is certified in Marshall Goldsmith’s Stakeholder Centered Coaching method. Executive Essentials is a certified Women Business Enterprise.