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Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors in game three of the NBA Finals

Source: Steve Russell / Getty

Instant gratification is the worst thing that can happen to any professional. Being celebrated for doing what you’re supposed to do is a sure shot way to take you out of a winners mindset. Instant gratification destroys your ability to see beyond defeat and stay consistent when things don’t go your way after giving an outstanding effort.

The truth is that it’s very likely a person can give blood, sweat, and tears and still come up short. Reading the previous sentence may feel uncomfortable in a time where every “professional development or branding guru” makes it their business to tell aspiring professionals that hard work and stepping out on faith basically guarantees victory. It’s not true, and we as a generation need to get better acquainted with the reality that sometimes your best effort won’t be enough.

When that happens, it doesn’t mean there’s something you should’ve done differently. It doesn’t mean that you were lazy, and it doesn’t mean that you’re one of the unchosen who won’t get to be great. In fact, all it means that it just might not have been your turn to be glorious. Steph Curry’s performance in game 3 of the NBA playoffs was proof of that.

Steph Curry led a ferocious battle as some of the most important players on the Warriors sat out due to injury. He stepped up to the plate and scored 47 points while grabbing 8 rebounds, and dishing 7 assists. It was his highest scoring finals game in his entire career, and his team still lost to the Toronto Raptors. As a matter of fact, it was the second highest scoring performance in a losing game behind LeBron James in his lost to Steph Curry’s Warriors just last year.

You may not be playing in the NBA, but you can bet your last dollar there will come a time where your best just isn’t good enough. What do you do in such a circumstance to keep your head on straight instead of embracing failure? What lessons can you take from exhausting all effort and getting no return on investment?

We have some suggestions:

Support Is Necessary

For the first time in his career, Steph was charged with leading his team in a finals game without any support from prolific scorers like Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. A competitor at heart, Steph took the challenge head on and left it all on the floor. No one can take anything away from his effort, and frankly had he been facing a less talented team than he probably would’ve gotten the win.

However, the bigger picture in this scenario is that you can be one of the best at what you do and still need support. Steph Curry is one of the greatest players to ever touch a basketball, and he still needs support. As a matter of fact, every great player including Michael Jordan needed a powerful supporting cast in order to win consistent championships. If you’re reading this, you’re no different.

When you step into your workplace, you might be the most talented person in the building. I’m here to let you know your talent means nothing without the team around you buying in and supporting your ideas.

You NEED to Lose

Losses that come after performing at the highest level of execution hurt more than anything in the world. Don’t you hate when you’re on a roll producing your best results to date and you still end up at the bottom of the totem pole? For example, the media industry as a whole endured triple the job cuts in 2018 in comparison to 2017. In January of 2019, about 1,000 jobs were lost in just one week.

Of the 15,500 media professionals who lost their jobs, we can safely assume that someone in that group was doing the best work of their career. Someone was breaking the best exclusives. Someone was producing the most viral content. Someone was executing some of the most impactful interviews, and it didn’t matter.

While they were executing so perfectly, their social media was probably full of likes, comments, and DM”s from onlookers sharing words of admiration. Imagine being on cloud 9 and working in your purpose, to have the opportunity you worked hard for be stripped away by circumstances beyond your control.

When something like that happens, it’s important to see the lesson in it. Unfortunately, we need to lose sometimes. It’s the only way we remember that nothing is forever, and we can’t under-appreciate the opportunity to do what we love for a living. In the moments that leave you defeated after a maximized output of energy, will you quit? Will you be so selfish that you’ll stay in a loser’s mentality just because things didn’t go your way?

Imagine Steph Curry walking away from last night’s game with the mindset that it doesn’t matter if he plays hard, because he might still lose just like the previous game. Losses happen so that we can recognize how ineffective our best performance is without supporters who invest their best performance right alongside us. Losses also happen so we can decide if we love what we do so much that we’ll keep trying despite the bumps and bruises that come along with the game.

Identify Solutions

Anytime you take a loss, it exposes a weakness. Is there a part of your game that if improved, can prevent taking the same type of loss again? Do you recognize ways you can help your team improve so they can fill in gaps as you focus on the bigger picture? The great thing about losing is that it helps make solutions identifiable, where you may not have noticed them had a win been the the result of your effort.

Anyone who really loves to win gets double the motivation from taking an L. The feeling of coming in second is never a feeling that a true winner wishes to revisit. Losing is a garbage experience that can produce outcomes more beautiful than the purest of water by an exotic island — that’s if you’re wise enough to take in the full scope of the experience, rather than harping on the negative feeling it gave you.