October 1, 2017. It’s a game day. Patriots vs the Panthers. All around a nice day. Good weather, warmer than I thought it was going to be, So Sara and I went into the stadium over-dressed. We spent the first half in my seats and then went down to Sam’s area to watch the second half with the whole crew.
It was a good game. Patriots started out strong, but quickly slumped. They came back and tied the game with 3:09 left in the 4th. Somehow the defense couldn’t hold out and a last second field goal by the Panthers won the game 33:30
Don’t get me wrong. It was defeating to go through that. But the walk back to the tailgate (.85 miles) gives you some time to think. There is a lot of conversation in the crowd about the refs, or the Defense being horrible or why couldn’t we just do x. Sara and I usually find a way to talk about what’s next: What food we have left for quick snacks, we need Gatorade and hydration, what is there to grill, what are we doing after we get home.
As we got back to tailgate there was some ribbing commentary about why some people hadn’t started cooking, why they were so lazy, etc. Within minutes we started eating and joking, playing music and watching the 4:30 games on the TVs. Steve (newbie) is stressing, “Why are you guys not mad? That sucked! I’m so pissed and you guys are joking around. Doesn’t losing like that bother you?” He was half joking, but you could tell the loss bothered him. Most of us just brushed it off. It’s a loss. On to Tampa.
I didn’t think about it much at the time, but later I got to thinking about this situation. Losses don’t bother the core group much anymore. Sure, we hate playoff losses because that is the end and the finality is painful. But regular season losses you bounce back from. You never lose, you just learn. I love that expression. Steve was new to our crew. The rest of us have been to more than 100 games. This is a routine.
That made me realize what it was that led us to recover so well and Steve had trouble. We surround ourselves with people and activities that make us feel better after a loss. We don’t just mentally “move on” we find physical things and actions that are positive, in our case- tailgating. Having that focus makes it easy to brush off the loss. People always talk about having positive influences in your life, it actually does work.
In the moment after a loss or failure, too many companies focus on the after action review. What happened. We need answers. But the perspective is all wrong. You are still a loser. You can’t analyze the loss when you feel like that. Move on. Find something positive to focus on, get your mind and the collective soul of your team back to a good place. Make it a ritual. After the game, do something positive. Doesn’t matter if it is a win or a loss, find a way to get back to focusing on what is good, what has potential. Build that into your culture; no matter how the score ends up, you played and fought, now you move on to the next thing.
Accept the defeat. It happened. Do your regular positive thing, just like any other game. You can stay in a state of feeling like a loser, or you can accept it. And then you realize, “We’re on to Cincinnati.”