Handling Losses in 2009

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

One of the keys to success in business, sports, and our spiritual life is learning how to handle mistakes, failures, and tough times. Stumbling blocks can become stepping stones. Burdens can become lessons.

Two professional football teams illustrated this well during the 2008 season. The Indianapolis Colts and the Jacksonville Jaguars both started the season with 3-4 records. The Colts turned their season around and made the playoffs. The Jaguars did not. Let me suggest one possible reason.

The Colts decided not to place blame on people and situations, but rather to fix their problems. The Jaguars shuffled lockers around, quietly pointed fingers and questioned team chemistry, and benched their defensive leader.

I love Coach Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts. One of the highlights of my retirement ceremony last June was to receive a personal letter from him. He is a strong Christian and has been very active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Coach Dungy said, “At 3-4, we knew what the problems were. A lot of it was ourselves and our execution, and that’s what we focused on more than pointing the finger at someone or figuring out who’s to blame.” The Colts started winning close games. They won five consecutive games by six points or less.

The Jaguars were out of sync both on and off the field. The Jags went 3-5 in games decided by less than a touchdown.

Guess who won the game when the Colts and Jags squared off with a playoff berth on the line for the Colts? I know one game could go either way, but I believe the Colts adopted a value system for more than one game—for a future philosophy and attitude of life.

Losers try to point fingers at who is to blame—winners join hands and hearts and fix the problem.

In this New Year when things get tough and you lose a few games and make some mistakes and fail at a few things—just consider it an investment in the bank of knowledge of some things that didn’t turn out the way you expected. Don’t have a pity party. Don’t take any sense of accomplishment if you figure out whom or what is to blame. Instead—focus on yourself and what you can do differently next time. You can never control other people or situations—you should be in complete control of yourself.

This is really the way Jesus looked at life. While people were constantly bombarding Him with problems—He responded with a focus on the possibilities. The disciples saw a crowd of five thousand as a problem when they had no food. Jesus saw it as a possibility. The disciples raised questions about who was to blame for people who had physical handicaps—Jesus saw it as an opportunity to bring healing to the situation.

Everything you face this year, you have the choice of looking at yourself and improving, or looking at people and the situations and trying to place blame. Coach Dungy and the Indianapolis Colts have the best option. I also know where Coach Dungy learned it—from his Head Coach!!

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