Byproducts: Learning from Failure and Virtues of Playing Sports

Two more examples of byproducts. Focusing on byproducts makes you less likely to achieve them. Instead focus on what the real end goal should be.

I recommend first reading the original post where I discussed byproducts: Why You Can’t Get More Happiness, Money and Love By Pursuing Them Directly

Learning from Failure

You’re first startup venture will probably fail and it will be a great learning experience that will increase your chances for being successful on your second venture. But you can’t go into that first venture with the expecation that will just be a great learning experience, because then it probably won’t even be a good learning experience, otherwise you’ll quit too early. Only if you have the unwavering irrational belief that this venture is destined to succeed will you push hard enough and long enough to learn some real lessons.

Competitive Spirit

Passion for athletics commanded the largest portion of my free time from the time I was 5 to the time I was 17. At some point around 13-14 I had some pretty tough injuries that were misdiagnosed with compounding lingering effects. (I’ve described that in some more depth in this post)

At some point around 17-18 I wound down my competitive athletics commitments so I could focus on my burgeoning entrepreneurial interests. Now that I have some distance from my athletic career I can see how much I’ve gained from sports.

The other day I was watching a Giants game and they were doing a brief promotional segment on a Giant’s sponsored program for getting more young girls involved in sports. They started listing all the virtues of playing sports, “competitive spirit, toughness, teamwork, ambition…” but hearing those traits rattled off made me want to snicker. In my experience, the only players who touted those virtues as reasons for playing weren’t very good. And the coaches who talked about those virtues to their players usually had bad teams. The good coaches and athletes focused on what they needed to do to get better, what they needed to do to win games and more importantly win championships.

I wasn’t driven by developing toughness, or being a team player. I wanted to win, and I wanted to realize my dreams of playing professionally. But I knew winning required mental toughness and involving my teammates. And along the same lines, you don’t pitch teamwork for teamwork’s sake, you pitch teamwork because it’s required to win.

You don’t chastise cheating, because it’s morally wrong, you don’t do it because it can hurt you chances of winning. Minor discrepenciases of what’s allowed by the rules are fine, and you have to weigh the risk/reward consequences of doing something unallowed.

But after my urge to mock the girls baseball promotional subsided, I realized I have all those traits, and they’ve carried over to other areas of my life even though I’ve stopped playing sports 6 times a week. And while instincts and genetics deserve credit for the existence of these traits, my engagement in sports nurtured and developed these traits.

But the reason I had such a negative visceral reaction to listing the virutes, comes down to byproducts and end goals. Teamwork, toughness, and ambition are all byproducts and by even considering them or any other byproduct as a valid end goal you make them less likely to occur.

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