This past week, I had a very public loss.
Despite my best efforts, I placed second in my semifinal round of the World Championships of Public Speaking. Alongside another 101 speakers from around the world, I was vying for one of ten coveted spots to reach the final round of the contest.
I’d spent 7 months preparing and climbing the ladder towards my ultimate goal. I’d won four consecutive contests. I’d spent time and money on coaching and training to become better than ever before.
When I delivered my speech in front of the crowd of 300 Toastmasters, I felt strong. I felt like I delivered the very best version of my speech. The audience were engaged. The speech met all of the judges criteria. I felt like a first place trophy was within my grasp.
Then came the verdict: second place.
Now, if you’ve read any of my previous writing, you know that past contest losses have caused me to go into a tailspin. I’ve spent months refusing to accept losses, blaming circumstances, and regretting my wasted efforts.
But this time, something felt different.
As soon as I heard my name called as second place, I heard a voice inside my head saying “Accept it.”
By the time I was handed a trophy, I already felt the acceptance of the new reality starting to settle in.
After the contest, I was given a lot of encouragement and condolences. I was told that it was an amazing delivery, that I deserved to win, and that people were sorry that I didn’t.
But by then, I could already feel myself moving on.
Somehow, for first time ever, I instantly accepted the loss, and made it a part of my reality.
Two days later, as I watched the Mayweather McGregor boxing match ending, I saw the exact same behavior from Conor McGregor.
The fight was stopped in the 10th round due to McGregor’s inability to continue. Despite his admirable bravado, he just couldn’t seem to overcome the challenge he’d set for himself.
Literally seconds after the fight was stopped, McGregor rushed towards Mayweather, embraced him and congratulated him on a great fight. He was smiling, and almost laughing with the man he’d been trying to punch in the face moments before.
This to me was the best moment of the whole evening. It showed the character of Conor McGregor that underpins the success he has achieved.
It also reinforced for me an incredible lesson: the faster you can accept that you lost, or things didn’t work out, the easier it is to move past them.
It is only in hanging onto an idealized reality that you start to cause yourself pain. When you wish things were different, even slightly different than the reality you now face, it causes stress and drains your energy.
Of course this idea is nothing new.
The poet, essayist Samuel Johnson said the same thing over 300 years ago. “Register from time to time the difference between idea and reality. It is by this kind of observation that we grow daily less liable to be disappointed.”
I learned from my experience this week that instant acceptance is the key to moving forward faster. With instant acceptance, you have power and a chance to start over.
I can always start over and try again. I can learn more from my current losses than any future win. Yet this can only happen if I am willing to instantly accept the situation, and move forward.
Onwards and upwards.