The extremes are where we are tested. It is the worst misfortune and greatest good fortune that reveal who we are.
For many, victory and defeat in the sporting arena are of great consequence. Careers are made off the back of big wins. Lives are shattered in the aftermath of a defeat.
For John Wooden, taunting your opponent after a win demonstrated your lack of respect. Insulting your opponent and complaining after a loss was just as bad. In championship games, he recalls telling his players, when he knew the win was in the bag, to not make fools of themselves by belittling their defeated opponents. He went on to say:
“Your reaction to victory or defeat is an important part of how you play the game. I wanted my players to display style and class in either situation—to lose with grace, to win with humility.”
Wooden was talking about basketball, but his insights carry over equally as well to the game of life.
They also reminded me of another philosopher’s words. Marcus Aurelius was considering the rewards and punishments Lady Fortune bestowed. Whatever she threw at him, he counselled himself
“To accept it without arrogance, to let it go with indifference.”
When victory and success comes your way, accept it. Without arrogance, without ego, without allowing it to inflate your perception of yourself. And when it leaves, when success is replaced by failure and defeat, do not be bitter.
As Seneca advises, remember that whatever good (or bad) fortune you have is loaned to you temporarily, to be rescinded at a later date. You are it’s steward, not it’s possessor.
You are not your successes. You are not your failures. Do not bind yourself and your wellbeing to them.