Break the fear of winning and losing – treat life like ‘practice’

At age 10, my daughter started taking swimming lessons with a bunch of other kids. But along with those kids in the pool, there was also a grown-up man taking swimming lessons.

When I saw him, I smirked and thought, “What is this guy doing here?” – as if he was embarrassing himself by learning to swim at that age!

In fact, there should have been one more guy in the pool – me. Because I am a horrible swimmer and my technique is all wrong. I needed those lessons more than that guy but my ego came in the way. I did not want to be seen struggling.

Therefore I did not try. And that is why my swimming sucks even today.

Kids learn much better than adults not just because of neuroplasticity, but also because for them, everything is practice. They don’t have the compulsion to win every time.

When you practice, winning is not the point – getting better is. During practice, no mistake is a loss because it teaches you what to do better the next time.

But is that not what happens in life? All the mistakes I made in my last startup have taught me what not to do at HabitStrong. And of course, I am making other mistakes at HabitStrong but I will learn and fix them going forward.

So doing a startup is a never-ending cycle of experiments, mistakes, and learning to fix those mistakes. But isn’t that what practice is all about?

And if doing a startup is ‘practice,’ why don’t we think of everything in life as practice? It could be your work project, a presentation or spreadsheet you made, or a blog you wrote – everything is practice because it helps you get better the next time.

And when something is ‘practice,’ we no longer have the compulsive burden of having to win. We are not nervous or tense, and ironically, have a better chance of succeeding.

In fact, in any sport, if you have practiced before an actual match, you would have felt more relaxed at that time. But when the actual match starts, you start feeling tense.

However, you may have a question: If we treat everything as practice, aren’t we taking it easy? After all, we push ourselves hard in a real match – don’t we need to do that in real life?

So to be clear, I am referring to the idea of practice in a limited way – as something where winning or losing is not the only point but learning is also important. Practice isn’t about taking it easy or doing things casually. In fact, practice leads to learning only when it is hard.

Treat life like an infinite game. And in an infinite game, everything you do today teaches you something you will use another day – hence it is all practice.

I would love to hear your feedback on this newsletter, and in the spirit of practice, would love your thoughts on what I can do better.

Thank you for reading this.


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