This morning I went to Como Zoo with my son. It was a normal "guy's outing" except that The Gorillas had escaped from their pens.
Now, I jumped out of a plane the day I turned 18. I've stopped a man's heart in the operating room. I've handled snakes and sharks, swum with dolphins, dived off cliffs, and many many other things that shocked me, brought me close to death or a powerful and/or dangerous animal. But nothing I've done would have prepared me for the moment I'd be face to face with a hulking beast that could tear me apart by accident.
When we arrived at Como, no one was allowed into the actual zoo because the apes had broken out. They were on a bloodthirsty rampage for all I knew as I naively entered the building's main entrance where I believed I was safe from the man-slaughtering homicidal brutes. Thinking that we were just ducking into approved areas, my son and I moved further off the beaten path, in one door, out another, then another, and another. And I would have to put up the fight of my life to protect him.
At easily ten times the strength of the strongest humans, no man can contend with an aggressive gorilla determined to crush him. And, luckily, I didn't have to. The people at Como did a great job keeping the gorillas from ever reaching a point where any visitors were in real danger.
You see, I did have to contend with my angry little gorilla, my son, who expected to be in the zoo. I wrestled him physically as he struggled to get into the zoo he had been so excited all morning to get into. I did wrestle to death... his disappointment. I did have to protect him... from himself.
Just like grow ups, kids get so locked into how they want things to turn out that they completely fall apart when things don't turn out that way. But just like the zookeepers at Como were able to peacefully resolve the unexpected results, I was able to tame the child. My son is actually quite adaptable; and after the initial upset, we had a great time and turned it into an awesome day and an awesome situation. We didn't dwell on the disappointment. We simply detoured to do something completely new, learning about the bonsai and the various other plants in the greenhouse.
And while this happened I couldn't help but see the parallel for so many people I work with and have worked with over the years. Your life doesn't turn out just as expected. Your job, your weightloss journey, your relationships surprise you. The ape gets loose. But you're still stuck being disappointed, instead of loving the greenhouse.
Sometimes even an article isn't going to turn out the way you thought; but hopefully you can see that it turned out even better.
I invite you to read on only if you are ready for tough love:
In fact, only professionals choke. The word itself connotes that you operate at a level wherein you contend for the top position in the world. While vying for it, you missed, or "choked."
It just happened to Brazil.
It just happened to a hot dog eating competitor.
But if it just happened to you (and you're alive) there's no need to hang your head in shame. For one, you had the opportunity to choke, which in and of itself speaks volumes for the hard work and dedication you've put in up to this point. Two, in many cases you don't have to wait another four years for another opportunity.
Yes, yes, I know. This particular opportunity "will never happen again." This is true almost none of the time, even for a 90 year old who missed the last Halley's Comet. There are other comets. And, guess what: thanks to technology, we can see everything ever recorded at pretty much any moment.
No matter what happens, you can always focus your energy on what you don't have, what you missed out on, what you wish you had. That's a primer on how not to be powerful, happy or successful. It may sound like something from Tony Robbins, but it is true. If you had everything you wished for, you still wouldn't have everything that you WILL wish for once you get it. The secret to happiness is wanting less.
Nevertheless, in this particular situation, I'm sure you're looking for something to get you close to the sensation of accomplishment you were hoping for and which just eluded you. The same advice applies, plus my question for you is "what now?" You see, the story isn't over, ever. If you had just won the lottery you'd still be faced with how to keep the piranhas away, protect yourself, your family and your identity. If you had just nailed that job, now you'd be faced with how to be great at it every day. If you just beat your competitor, you'd still be faced with the next challenge. Each moment, each minute, each hour, each day you are still going to be faced with "now what?" Whether you choked or won, you still face the same question. You have to go DO something. Something else. No matter what.
So, sitting, inactive, impotently lamenting the loss, the choke... that's not what pros do. It's not what winners do.
And it's not what you're going to do.