“Defeat is not defeat unless accepted as a reality in your own mind.” ~ Bruce Lee
“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe
If life is tough and you have problems, you are a human being. Nice job. If these struggles bring you down emotionally and sap your motivation, there’s a small, but powerful phrase that can pull you out of the doldrums.
Never give up.
In every person’s life, and in every path to success, there are one or more periods of powerful doubt and resistance (usually in the beginning stages of a new pursuit, but it can happen at any time). It might be devastating. You might feel hopeless. This is the big moment. Do you shrivel up like a salted slug or do you move forward in defiance?
The #1 reason people fail in life is that they give up. They let current doubt destroy their future potential.
In these four upcoming videos, it’s important to note that everyone except the athletes of focus have given up hope. These athletes demonstrate that it’s not only possible to keep going when doubt is overwhelming, it’s possible to win. They demonstrate that “certain defeat” in the eyes of millions is not a reliable indicator that you should throw in the towel.
Caution: Don’t merely be inspired by these four videos. Understand what they mean. Recognize the pattern of emotion in the announcer’s voices as in each case they go from complete doubt to pure elation, and how the same emotional pattern happens within us (and often keeps us from getting to the elation stage). For each video, I’ve identified the emotional stages of the turnaround by what the commentators are saying. Look at their language: it’s fascinating how abruptly it changes according to what the athletes are doing.
1. Heather Dorniden Trips and Falls, Still Wins Race
Stage 1, Complete Doubt: Heather Trips
“Dorniden falling down, gets up quickly, but that’s going to cost her (the victory).”
“Lucky she wasn’t injured.”
“Her teammate just went to the front though, so they may be able to recover from that.”
Notice from this language that the commentators have assumed defeat for Heather. Her behavior after tripping shows that she doesn’t agree with them. She gets up immediately after falling, not in an “I’m going to honorably finish the race” kind of way, but in an “I’m going to try to win this” kind of way.
Stage 2, A Glimmer of Hope: Heather Gains on the Other Runners
“Dorniden is flying down the backstretch.”
“She is catching up!”
“She is going to catch Fondora and she may catch the leader.”
“This is a gutsy effort by Dorniden.”
“Can she pull it off?”
Stage 3, Shock and Euphoria: Heather Wins
[voice now raised] “She’s moved into third! Dorniden coming down the stretch from the outside! Dorniden coming on strong! She did it! Wow, unbelievable!”
“That is amazing. To fall in a 600… I mean this is basically a sprint. […] To fall with 200 meters to go and get up and win? Unbelievable.”
Each of the three commentators said the same key word in the end. Unbelievable. That’s because they didn’t believe in Heather after she tripped. And how common is that? When you make a mistake, that’s when others will lose faith in you. You may doubt yourself. The only way to pull out of it is to not give up. Keep going. You may see a glimmer of hope which can be the beginning of a complete turnaround.
2. Jason Lezak Shocks the World, Makes History
This next video is the 4×100 relay race in the 2008 Olympics. It is my favorite inspirational video. Perhaps it’s because I was a swimmer for 12 years, but aside from that, the story is too good to resist.
Before the race even started, Lezak (and the US team) faced plenty of adversity and doubt. Prior to this race, the French were favored to win and had stated that they would “smash” the Americans. Not many people were giving the Americans a chance to win.
The race begins, and it goes as expected, with France taking the lead after three laps. Unfortunately for the USA, the final leg of the relay pits Jason Lezak against the former 50m freestyle world record holder, Alain Bernard. Of the two swimmers, Bernard has faster times and his team has given him a lead.
(start video at 2:50 to skip to the final leg of the race with Lezak)
Stage 1, Complete Doubt: Lezak is behind to a faster swimmer
“I just don’t think he can do it.”
“Bernard is pulling away from him (Lezak).”
“The United States trying to hang on to second. They should get the silver medal.”
Halfway through the final lap, the announcers gave up on Lezak by brushing off his chance to catch up and win the gold medal. Not only that, they questioned if he’d even get silver.
Stage 2, A Glimmer of Hope: Lezak Gains on Bernard in the Final Lap
“Australia is in bronze territory right now…” [at this point, the announcer suddenly raises his voice, as if an event in the race has interrupted him] “…but Lezak is closing a little bit on Bernard! Can the veteran chase him down and pull off a shocker here?”
“There’s no doubt that he’s tightening up!”
Stage 3, Shock and Euphoria: Lezak Wins
[now at fever pitch] “Bernard is losing some ground! Here comes Lezak! Unbelievable at the end! He’s done it! The US has done it!”
“He did it! He did it!”
“46.06 split for Lezak! What a clutch, fast swim when they needed it! Not only was that the fastest in history, it blew away the fastest in history!”
Again, we hear the word “unbelievable.” Lezak kept going when he was the only one left who believed. How will you react when you’re the only one who believes in yourself? To reap the greatest rewards, one must often push through practically suffocating doubt.
3. Tracy McGrady Becomes Unstoppable, Scores 13 Points in 33 Seconds for Comeback Win
As a basketball player, I know what it’s like to get in the zone. It’s fun. But Tracy McGrady went beyond the zone for a few minutes. He became a juggernaut at the end of this game in the face of certain defeat. Though this is a team sport, it’s almost as if McGrady was the only one who hadn’t accepted the Spurs as victors.
Stage 1, Complete Doubt: Spurs Have a Commanding Lead Late in the 4th Quarter
“Ballgame over. All we need here is a final score.”
“The Rocket’s offense has been atrocious.”
Stage 2, A Glimmer of Hope: McGrady Makes Some Crazy Shots
“A potential 4 point play! Tracy McGrady from downtown!”
“McGrady over Bowen for three… Yes! Yes! Tracy McGrady cuts it to a two point lead! Timeout San Antonio!”
Stage 3, Shock and Euphoria: McGrady Wins Game on Last Second 3-Pointer
“Brown lost it! Here comes McGrady! No timeouts remaining! McGrady, for the win… Yes! Ooh! And the Rockets steal a game from the Spurs!”
“Tracy McGrady with an incredible performance down the stretch! 13 points in 33 seconds!”
“Unbelievable! All those people who left, Marv, they’re driving home in their cars right now wondering, ‘What were we thinking?'”
When you’re thinking about giving up on something, first consider the upside. What’s the benefit of giving up? How does it help you? In almost every case, there is no benefit. Even if McGrady didn’t believe they could win, he had no incentive to give up. It would be more fun, if nothing else, to try to win.
And while I’m sharing videos of winners here, there are many more losing efforts out there of great value. The ultimate goal isn’t to win, but to play to win and to never accept defeat. Never accepting defeat does not mean that you won’t ever be defeated, it only means that giving up will never be the cause of it. Here’s a great quote from Rocky Balboa along these lines (I’ve written about Stallone before. His story is very much in the “never give up” category):
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!”
4. Arsenal FC Orchestrates an Unbelievable Comeback
(start at 8:20 to see Arsenal’s game-tying goal as regulation ends)
Stage 1, Complete Doubt: FC Reading is Up 4-0
“Hunt! In off the post! Reading are running riot! Arsenal are being annihilated here!”
“Well, the fourth goal means that some Arsenal fans who I assume have seen enough are headed home already.”
Stage 2, A Glimmer of Hope: Arsenal Scores Just Before Halftime
[Walcott scores just before halftime] “At last, something goes right for [Arsenal]!”
“Could that be the start of an improbable comeback?”
[2nd goal] “Arsenal are really motoring now!”
“We’ve got a game on our hands here.”
[4th goal] “From 4-0 down, they’ve drawn it level right at the death!”
Stage 3, Shock and Euphoria: Arsenal Wins
“A missed heading gives Chamakh to seal it once and for all for Arsenal here… and he has!”
“So ends one of the most remarkable nights in league history!”
“[…] absolute and utter drive, determination, and character.”
These are remarkable events in sports, and it’s not realistic to expect a commentator to go crazy on your behalf when you do something great. What you can expect, however, are significantly more victories in life when you refuse to give up. You may not win on the first or fifth time, but those who persist win eventually.
The key takeaways:
- There may be times in your life when nobody believes in you or what you’re trying to do. And just because someone supports you does NOT mean that they believe you will succeed, and you will be able to sense this. If someone supports you, but you sense they doubt you, it can be more discouraging than encouraging.
- Even if nobody on earth believes in you, it is no reason to give up. Be cognizant of the fact that the only reliable way to get people to believe in you is to prove it first, and that’s done by persisting. The onus is on you. Give us no choice but to believe in you.
- Did you notice in the videos how quickly doubt can change into hope and then victory? It’s difficult to see how something could play out favorably like this when you’re drenched in doubt. It’s impossible to have certainty in most cases. Did any of these athletes know for certain that they would win? Of course not. But they all gave themselves a chance by finishing their events with vigor. You won’t know when or how it will work out, but when it does, success can hit you all at once.
- The doubt these athletes experienced is no different that the doubt you face on a daily basis. Are you good enough? Can you recover from the mistake? Only those who try (and try again) will find the answer!
- The greater the doubt, the sweeter the victory in the end. Not all stories have fairy tale endings in the real world, but some do, and those are the ones in which the person didn’t give up.
- The mechanism of not giving up is simple: continue to move ahead regardless of self doubt and doubt from others. As with most things, you’ll get better at it with practice.
This simple notion of not giving up is powerful enough to turn your life around.
This blog exists because I never gave up on it. After two years of working hard to produce great content, I only had 440 subscribers. I remember six distinct times that I considered quitting out of frustration that I wasn’t reaching more people. I didn’t quit though, and now Deep Existence has more than 10,000 subscribers, I’ve written an international bestselling book (Mini Habits), and I have a promising career. There were a number of other bloggers who were at my level of success or higher who simply gave up for whatever reason.
That’s my personal example, and I’m sure you have a number of examples of your own. As for now, whether you’re looking for your big breakthrough success, one more rep at the gym, or a solution to a life problem, the answer is the same:
Never give up.
Climbing photo by EfrénCD