Competing to Win- Part 1

Anyone can enter a competition and just be a part of it. But if you want to win, you have to fight for it. You have to compete like you want to be at the top of the podium.

Over the next several posts I’m going to go through five strategies that are crucial to making it to the top:

  • Coping with a Bad Event
  • Taking Risks
  • Routines
  • Flexibility
  • Trust Your Training

Coping With a Bad Event

After a bad event, your brain and emotions can take you on quite the roller coaster ride. You may doubt yourself and want to quit, or it may fire you up to work harder. Whatever your initial thoughts are following the tough event, remember that you can use it to help you.


Failure is part of the process. It’s not a fun part, it’s not something you look forward to, but failure is necessary for success. Take a look at the Michael Jordan picture.

In 1923, Babe Ruth broke the record for most home runs in a season. That same year, he also broke the record for highest batting average. There is a third record he broke that year- he struck out more times than any other player in Major League Baseball.

Babe Ruth was not afraid to strike out. And it was this fearlessness that contributed to his remarkable career. He was the first player to hit 60 home runs in one season, a record he held for 34 years.  He also held the lifetime total home run record of 714 for 39 years.

He held other records too. He had 1,330 career strike outs – a record he held for 29 years until it was broken by none other than the great Mickey Mantle.

Personally, when I look back at my own career, it seems I either won a gold medal or I was no where close to any color medal. I always went big. I went after things with all that I had. It didn’t always work out quite like I hoped, but often it did, even greater than I imagined.

Most people want to hit home runs, but the problem is they are afraid to fail in order to get there. As Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth proved, you can’t have one without the other. It’s perfectly fine to be a good, solid player who doesn’t go down swinging that often. But it also means that you won’t hit very many home runs. If you want to swing for the fences, you have to be willing to strikeout.


Even though failure is a necessary stepping stone, it is important to grieve after a bad event. Bottling up and suppressing feelings about an event will turn out something like shaking a soft drink can then popping the top to spray everywhere. The longer you hold it in, the bigger the explosion in the end.

It’s pivotal to grieve over a bad performance. Those feelings and disappointments need to be released, not pent-up. But keep in mind that you don’t want to grieve for too longer. If you linger in grief you will be heading downhill.

Prolonged grieving lowers self-confidence and motivation. And it will only make working for the next attempt harder because you will put extra pressure on yourself with loaded expectations sure to lead to disappointment whatever the outcome.


Once you’ve had time to grieve, separate yourself from the emotion for a few minutes, and try to constructively evaluate what happened in order to find a solution.

It also helps to pinpoint exactly what the source of the anguish is (i.e.- Are you embarrassed by others watching your performance? Are you ashamed you didn’t put in the work you could have or should have? Did you think it should have been easier to do better? etc.).

Separate what you couldn’t control from what you can/could control. In diving, I can get as upset as I want over my performance, but I can’t get angry about what the judges give me for scores because that isn’t something I can control or change. Staying upset about things you can’t control will only turn into bitterness, and there will never be a “fix” for it.

It’s helpful to evaluate your performance with someone else who might be less critical and more objective (i.e.- a coach or teammate). Sometimes we’re afraid our coach will be upset or disappointed, but often we’re the ones who are the most critical and the hardest on ourselves.

The next event

It’s important that the next event should not be thought of as a do-over but as an entirely new event.

The “do-over” mentality will only lead to extra, unnecessary pressure and anxiety at the next event. If you can go in with a mindset of a clean slate or a new beginning then you have a brand new, fresh start for your next event. With a clean slate, you have the opportunity to implement lessons learned from the last bad event without the extra pressure of feeling like you have to replicate an event but with a better outcome.


While having a bad event is not something you walk away from feeling satisfied, remember that it can still be an important step in getting to the top. It’s all about how you handle the aftermath. So the next time things don’t work out the way you hoped or planned, take a few minutes to remember the greats that experienced FAILURE during the pursuit of success, GRIEVE the event to help you move on, EVALUATE the event to find things within your control that you can improve upon, and go into THE NEXT EVENT with a clean slate.

In the next post we’ll talk about the value in Taking Risks.

Read the other posts in this series:

Post 1   Post 2     Post 3     Post 4     Post 5

  • Paul Benitez
    Posted at 14:57h, 05 June Reply

    "Grieve." What a great insight. I’ve always heard/experienced the evaluate and learn from your failures, but this is the first time I’ve been expose to the concept of grieving first. There’s so much time and effort put into the preparation that there naturally builds in an emotional attachment. Allowing specific time to let that emotion pass is absolutely critical in overcoming and winning in the future. Great insight. Thanks for sharing.

    • Laura Wilkinson
      Posted at 02:46h, 07 June Reply

      I’m glad that’s helpful Paul! I think there are a lot of things in life that we just try to move on or run from without closure. If we don’t at least acknowledge, or truly grieve the loss if it’s substantial, it tends to hang around in the back of your head, nag at you and sometimes become a huge stumbling block all because it’s just been ignored and not dealt with or faced.

  • Rita Dipman
    Posted at 16:02h, 08 June Reply

    It is truly wonderful that she shares with us her strategy and struggles and how to deal with them.

    • Laura Wilkinson
      Posted at 19:09h, 08 June Reply

      Thank you Rita! I just hope it encourages and helps others do their best!

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