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Not Winning Isn’t Losing

Outcome of my appearance at the 2010 West Coast Classic

I competed yesterday (June 26th) in the 2010 West Coast Classic – my target contest for my big “coming out of retirement at 50 years old” event.  Just four weeks ago, I took 1st place at the 2010 Muscle Beach International Classic, as a warm-up to the West Coast.  But this was going to be my Main Event.  Of course, I wanted to win 1st place.  Instead… I place 2nd.  I was beaten fair and square by a worthy adversary.  His name was Don Willes, from Las Vegas.  He simply out-sized me.  I was leaner, but he was much bigger, with great fullness in the pecs, lats and traps.

I realize some of you might be thinking, “hey – 2nd place is still pretty good”.  But – as some of you know – I’m very competitive, and I wanted to win 1st.  Some of my close friends even asked me, “are you okay?”, after seeing, or hearing that, I had placed 2nd.  They know that I “expect” to win, and they know how hard I work toward that goal.   So the question is this: did I lose? Answer: of course not.

The Contest Within

Competition of any kind – particularly of a sporting nature – is arbitrary.  You prepare yourself with winning in mind.  You tell yourself that you will accept nothing less – that you must beat all the others who will be there competing against you.  You want that 1st place trophy – anything less will be “losing”.  That’s a nice pre-event attitude – in that in makes you work your hardest – but it’s completely unrealistic, for several reasons.

It’s relative.  You show up on a particular day, as prepared as you can possibly be.  If you enter an event that is at a moderately competitive level, you might take a 1st place trophy.  But if you enter an event that is at a highly competitive level, you might take a 5th place trophy – or perhaps no trophy at all.  Yet – in either case, you were equally prepared.  In bodybuilding terms, you looked just as good.  You had X amount of muscle, and you were at X level of leanness.  But, depending on which contest you entered, you’re either a winner, or you’re a loser ??  That’s not correct at all.  It all depends on who happens to be there to challenge you, on that particular day, and you have no control over that.

You won your own battle.  Any challenge you take on requires you to reach deep down and summon a certain amount of courage, discipline and effort.  Doing so causes you to rise to a new level of personal success – physical or otherwise – that surpasses where you were before.  Maybe it causes to you to defy certain odds, or to overcome certain obstacles, which others may not have to face … or which might cause others to not even try.  Rising to that new level makes a big, bold statement that says – “I reached high, and I’m better now than before”.

It adds to your insight and emotional fortitude.  The pursuit of a goal – especially one that is lofty – causes you to pass through adversity, stress, physical discomfort, emotional difficulty and – yes, pain.  You cannot pass through that without gaining some insight about yourself.  Knowledge is power, and that kind of personal knowledge then adds to your future abilities, which enhances your future potential.  It’s like money in the bank.

You gain motivation – but only you have the right frame of mind.  Some people view “defeat” critically.  They criticize what they see as the “unfairness” of the circumstances which might have resulted in their defeat (or lack of ultimate victory).  They say something like, “… if this is the kind of crap that one has to deal with in this sport, than I quit – this sport’s not for me”.  But that’s naïve, because of the 3 reasons listed before this one.  But also because of this 4th one: it can be used productively to fire-up the next attempt.  Frankly, I am MORE motivated to make improvements, and to do better “next time”, than I would have been if I had won that 1st place trophy (winning is good, but it can often make one complacent).

Yesterday, we all enjoyed seeing Brian Whelan – one of the contestants, who had shattered both of his legs in 21 places when a 1,200 pound leg press collapsed on top of his legs – compete for the first time while walking and standing on those two legs (… which were fairly muscular, I might add).  Lonnie Teper, the show promoter and Emcee, afterwards remarked, “… and some people say they won’t compete because they have to work in the morning.”  Amen!  Whether Brian Whelan took a 1st place trophy, or no trophy at all, didn’t matter.  He is a winner because he continues to fight the battle to be better than he was before.

Losing – or just “not winning” – occasionally happens, despite our best efforts.  But it’s relative.  I won yesterday (… in fact, everyone there won their own personal contest), although it’s true that I failed to win the trophy that read:   1st Place / Men’s 50+ / 2010 West Coast Classic. But I did actually win.  In fact, I won before I even got there – because I did my homework to the best of my ability; because I elevated my condition to a new level – despite my age; because I chose to participate instead of sit on the sidelines; because I chose to accept the outcome – rather than complain about it; because I am now more fired up than ever to make more improvements.  And it wouldn’t have mattered if I had placed last – all those other victories would still be there.

I’m in better shape than I ever thought I would be in, at the age of 50.  In some ways, I’m actually in better shape now than when I was 30.  And I realize now, more than ever, that I still have untapped potential, which I plan to bring to the surface in the years to come – regardless of whether or not it’s rewarded with an actual (or a particular) trophy.  The trophy is a nice “carrot”, which makes for a convenient incentive.  But it’s not about the trophy.  It’s about the quest.  And in that sense, I was – and will again be – victorious.

_   _   _

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  1. Old School Phil

    June 29, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Great philosophy and attitude Doug. Judging by your photos, I thought you looked sharper at the Muscle Beach contest, realizing how difficult it is to maintain peak condition for an extended time (four weeks). Regardless, your conditioning and definition are amazing for a competitor of any age.

    Your training blogs are informative and encourage introspection of the mechanics of correct training. I’m looking forward to your book.

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