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Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Power of Hypocrisy

I have a confession to make: I am a "sports hypocrite." Keep reading, and you'll see why you may want to be a hypocrite too...

What's a "sports hypocrite," you ask?

It means that long ago I decided that it was ok for me to be overjoyed and excited when my team was winning, but to not get upset or depressed when my team was losing.

To be clear, this is very different from a "fairweather fan." The fairweather fan only watches and supports the team when things are going great. When the team looks like a championship contender, they creep out of the ether like pirates from "The Fog." The rest of the time they pay less attention to the team than Quasimodo pays to his chiropracter.

I will follow and support my team whether they are good or bad. On occasion they have been so bad as to be unwatchable, but I still supported the team.

No, when I am talking about sports hypocrisy, I am talking about the ability to take the highs and ignore the lows. But it wasn't always this way, I used to take sports losses pretty bad...

In basketball, I am a Philadelphia 76ers fan. Years ago, Charles Barkley played for the Sixers, and he happens to be my favorite player of all time. (I will admit that in high school my nickname amongst some friends was "Barkley." Very sad, but very true...)In 1992 the Sixers were bad, and Barkley was traded to the Phoenix Suns. As a huge Barkley fan, I instantly become a Suns fan (in addition to still supporting the Sixers)

The 1992-93 season was amazing - for the Suns that is. The Sixers stunk like yesterday's limberger cheese. But for Barkley and the Suns, it was a dream season. They finished the year #1 and Barkley won the league MVP. In the playoffs, the Suns had a great run that included some amazing performances from Charles. I was loving it!

Then the Suns made it to the finals, where they had to play Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Things didn't go so well here. The Suns found themselves down 3-2 in a best of 7 series. With less than a minute left in the "must win" game 6, the Suns were up by 2 points. The Suns missed (oh no!), and the Bulls' John Paxson, a deadly clutch 3-point shooter who for some reason was wide open, hit a three-point shot to have the Bulls go up by one point with four seconds left. The Suns final shot attempt was blocked, time expired, and the Bulls won the championship.

I was not prepared for this. I had so much hope invested in Barkley and the Suns that I was stunned. I was watching the game with a bunch of friends, and I remember sitting there after the game for 15 minutes, not saying a word. I woke up the next morning just wishing and hoping that Paxson's shot missed. A liggering sadness stayed with me for days.

The following years were no better. Barkley's teams were always strong contenders, but kept getting eliminated. Evertime they did, I got into a funk for a few days. I thought I was being a "great fan."

After one such loss, I realized, "hey, you're not being a great fan, you're being an idiot!"

Here I was, feeling down and depressed because my team lost. I had no effect on the outcome of the games, and the outcome of the game had no effect on my life. I remember thinking to myself, "why don't you just stop caring when your team's lose?"

My response was instant and emotional: "I can't do that - I won't be a good fan then!"

Thankfully, I went with logic over emotion. I realized that just because I really wanted my team to win, that didn't mean I had to get depressed when they lost. Now when I watch sports and my teams win, I get very excited and pumped up. When they lose (and as a Philadelphia sports fan, we have along hhistory of disappointing losses) I just say, "ah well, whatever."

Hardcore sports fans right now probably think I am crazy. "If you aren't willing to feel the lows, you don't deserve the highs!"

Poppycock! I just decided to redefine the "rules" for what makes me happy and sad. Being upset about a sports loss doesn't serve me in any way, and doesn't make me more or less of a fan.

This is one of primary things I teach audiences when it comes to dealing with the unexepected: You can't control what happens to you. Buy you CAN control how you respond to it. You have a choice, just like I do. None of us have to be upset because our teams lose. Or for any other reason.

Lesson #1:

This applies to much more than sports. You can choose your response. So many people get angry or stressed or frustrated and then blame it on others. "It's not my fault! This person always makes me mad!" or "If you didn't do that, I wouldn't be so stressed!" Casting blame is a waste. People who deal with life's hiccups the best are the one's who realize that the only thing they can control is their response.

Lesson #2:

Pick the rules that support you. I decided that not getting depressed didn't make me any less of a fan. What rules can you add or modify to support you? Symmetry and consictency are not mandatory here. You can get ecstactic when you close a sale but shrug off a rejection. Reward your employees when they do something great but don't fly off the handle when they mess up. Put all your passion and energy into a project but let it roll off your back if it fails or is poorly received.

You'll be much happier, and your self-esteem will thank you.

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