Loser’s Limp

It was probably in the last year or so of junior high school. I was waiting for my race during  practice for an upcoming track meet. Standing near the coach, we watched the final moments of a sprint. The runners crossed the finish line running in dead earnest. The final runner, several seconds behind, limped the last several yards, slowing his pace with each struggling footfall.

I thought we should help him. Surely something was wrong. An injury must have compromised an other wise promising start. Then I overheard the coach tell his assistant. “Look, that’s a loser’s limp.”

When the runner saw that his performance was no match for others in the race, and it became obvious he was going to lose, his dedication and enthusiasm quickly drained. Rather than pour it on and finish strong, rather than do his best and accept his defeat with openness and inquiry, he limped across the finish line. “After all”, limping losers think, “who can blame them for losing when they are injured.” Even if the injury is fake, it isn’t particularly difficult to fake the fake.

Loser’s limps are everywhere. And it isn’t only present in junior high track star wannabes.

Fidel Castro says his economic woes are the fault of the economic embargo in place by the United States. The truth is there are hundreds of other nations with whom to trade. For years his regime was propped up by the Soviets, yet the severe living conditions persisted.

This one indicator is more revealing and more damning than almost any other act. It is here that the talent and character of losers and winners is so very, very evident.

  • Winner’s, and potential winners, accept losing and figure out why.
  • They do not engage in blame-shifting, whining, or finger-pointing.
  • Winner’s run every step of the course. Even if loss is certain and obvious, they do not limp across the finish line. This one facet is a certain indicator of the fiber of a person’s character. (In a related application, I meet people every day who have purchased homes lost by previous owners to foreclosure. In every case but one, those who defaulted on their mortgages did their best to destroy their homes as they moved out. They ripped out kitchens, removed air conditioners, took down garage door openers, took hammers to the walls, ripped up carpets, and broke the windows.)
  • As embarrassing and distasteful as it is to face rejection and loss, winner’s do so with dignity.
  • Winners do not whine. They man up. They grow. Loser’s, when they limp to cover loss, let self-excusing behavior stifle understanding and growth. In so doing, they become even more pathetic. The result is to engage in even more mediocre behavior to prove the limp is justified. It becomes a downward spiral as bad performance leads to worse performance. Tragically, losers usually demonstrate and validate why they were, and are, losers.

Effective practical leaders have usually learned the hard way. Loss is a good thing if it provokes self-assessment and growth.

Winners who have never given in to the loser’s limp can truly inspire the rest of us to work our best, try the hardest, focus the most, and live to the highest standards.

So you don’t run real footraces much these days? But each and every day you do face a course that will challenge you. It is called life. Hope you’re not limping across the finish line every evening! Mediocrity is a pathetic label to acquire and a miserable creed by which to live.

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