Words & Sports

Is Success Earned?

The Committee for the College Football Playoff announced the four teams that will participate in this years’ playoff. You can bet that certain people—the players, fans, athletic directors, and coaches of some of the other teams—are pretty angry right now. They think the chance should have been theirs.

Are they right?

Ideally, success is earned. You work hard and your consistency, motivation, small successes, good timing, and luck all come together and you get your shot at the playoff—if you deserve it. Maybe Penn State didn’t deserve it this year. They lost two games in the regular season, one to a lesser opponent and the other by 39 points. None of the other playoff teams lost more than one game. Yet, sometimes you have to look in the mirror and say “we should have done better.”

But we all know that the selection process isn’t perfect and sometimes it isn’t fair. Good teams get skipped over for lots of reasons. Maybe bad luck cost them a game they should have won. Maybe somebody made a mistake somewhere. Maybe Penn State will go to the Rose Bowl and beat USC, one of the hottest teams in the country right now. Maybe they’ll prove everyone wrong.

I don’t want to write about the shortcomings of college football right now. I don’t want to write about whether the decision the Committee made what the right one or whether any other aspect of college football ought to be overhauled. Maybe it should and maybe it shouldn’t. That’s another article for another time. I’m interested in what happens when you don’t get the shot you thought you earned.

Do you come back to play again, hungrier than you were before?

In business, we see individuals get a chance to prove themselves by working with an important client. We see people get that promotion and go on to manage a team. On the flip side, we see people get skipped over, people who thought they were deserving. And guess what? Maybe they were.

Do these people who didn’t get what they wanted sit around fuming about what should have happened, going over and over in their heads about how “I should have been the one”?

To go back to our earlier metaphor, you won’t ever win the Rose Bowl like that.

What happens to you isn’t that important—it’s how you respond that counts. If you got skipped over, you can respond by doubling down on your current projects, seeking more of those smaller successes and helping others as much as possible. Stay positive. Not getting picked doesn’t make you bad. On the other hand, a good look in the mirror might reveal some mistakes that made you not get picked. You can put your energy into fixing those. And if you’re honestly convinced you should not have been passed over, like maybe there’s some bias or something unethical going on, or maybe your boss literally didn’t get the memo about all that great work you did, well, you can get to work on that. Address the problem.

The past doesn’t matter. How hard you have to work to succeed doesn’t matter. How hard the other guy has to work to succeed doesn’t matter either. So you didn’t get what you thought you deserved? It’s what you do from here on out that makes or breaks your future.


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Image of the College Football Playoff was created by Zennie Abraham under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License