Using Defeat for Success

This week, I want to discuss something that I feel makes professionals uncomfortable… getting beat. I assume that everyone reading this wants to be at the top of his or her field. Whether you are a weightlifter or a CEO (or both), who wants to think about losing to someone else? Here’s why. This morning on my way into work, I was listening to another edition of the Jocko Podcast. For this show, he was co-hosting with a guy who just recently retired from the military. During active duty, this man was a Marine fighter pilot and after rising up the ranks ended up being a pilot instructor for the flight school, Top Gun. Yes, Top Gun is a real school. You might have seen a little known movie about it called by the same name. “This guy was the real life Tom Cruise!” I thought as I was driving. Surely he has always experienced success since he was later chosen to be the head instructor. So it was to my surprise that he went on to say that his first test flight at Top Gun lasted all of about 45 seconds. His instructor completely annihilated him before he even knew what had hit him. That doesn’t sound like someone that would eventually be leading all of the other instructors while writing the teaching manual for the nation’s most prestigious flight school. He described that this was not a fluke accident that he was beaten, but that it was a daily occurrence. He would join his classmates everyday to work on fighting simulations against the instructors and every day the instructors would easily win. He said that the teachers would prolong the fighting simulations for the purposes of learning but they could have made short work of the students every time they flew. He describes the process of this learning system by getting beaten over and over again until you feel you have mastered one fighting simulation (one-on-one, two-on-two etc.) before moving on to the next. During the next time up in the air with the new fighting technique what do you think happens? You guessed it …students get destroyed easily. This continues to happen during the hundreds and hundreds of flights that students go through against superior pilots until eventually, they have mastered each training simulation and possess the ability to read and react to any given situation. If one of the top pilots and former lead instructor for the best flight school in the world got his butt kicked hundreds of times for the sake of getting better at his craft, why should your path to greatness be any different? Here is a guy who is living every boy’s dream (if you were born in the 80’s) and openly welcomes the learning process that comes with defeat. It is what has made him elite. Think about that the next time you face any adversity in your way or lose to someone who is better than you at the moment. Treat it as another hurdle on the way to the finish line of your dream.

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