Playing, winning and losing

As I sit and begin to reflect on my year over Christmas, I realised that the majority of my year has been much simpler than usual.

I haven’t tried to do 5000 different things, I’ve only focused on a few. Some of them have worked out, some of them haven’t, and some of them are a work in progress.

This year more than any other I’ve focused on playing. I’ve focused on trying new things and seeing where they lead.

I’ve tried some new things. Things I knew nothing about, and things that scared the pants off me. None of it killed me, but one of them nearly blinded me (that’s a story for another day).

I haven’t had my head down for 365 days, concerned with completing an arbitrary challenge I set myself.

Instead, I’ve had my head up scanning the horizon. I’ve played with things and done them until I’ve gotten bored.

As usual, Jiu Jitsu has a lesson here I’ve learned. I’ve been doing Jiu Jitsu now consistently since February. In that time I’ve gone from being a complete beginner who knows nothing to somebody who knows a little bit more than nothing (I’m a blue belt now).

In the early days when I approached Jiu Jitsu I always had to beat somebody. I was always looking for the win, and there were certain people I could never lose to.

I see this a lot with new students who arrive at our gym, and especially the ones who have previously had success in another sport. The weightlifters, the rugby players and the wrestlers. They often find it difficult to step back down to Being The Beginner again, so they develop an overly competitive style. They know nothing of Jiu Jitsu but they smash people and train as if they’re about to die.

I was (a bit) like this. I approached every training session with a winning mindset and an overly competitive one. I didn’t like focusing on defence more than offence and didn’t like losing. This helped me to develop quickly, but then that development started to halt.

I was so worried about losing that I didn’t try new things. I didn’t learn new things and stuck to the things I knew I could win people with. Even in training when a loss means nothing, I didn’t dare try anything new that I knew would probably fail.

One day I decided to change that. I’d just been shown some new techniques and despite knowing I was absolutely rubbish at them, I tried them. I lost—horribly—but different ways of thinking started firing in my brain after that.

What if I stopped worrying about losing?

What if I started playing more? What if I’m not worried about the win? What if become more concerned with experimentation than absolute success?