What To Do When Your Winning Streak Is Over

Falling Off Your HorseNBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain scored 20+ points in 126 consecutive games between 1961 and 1963. Olympic hurdler Edwin Moses won 122 consecutive races between 1977 and 1987. I posted to this blog 119 weeks in a row between 2016 and 2018.  My own personal 119-week winning streak.

As you may have noticed, my streak ended last week.

Like all-time greats Wilt and Edwin, I kept a streak alive for over two years. But also like these greats, I now have to deal with what happens when a streak is over.  

The Thing About Streaks

A winning streak can be a wonderful thing. It can build momentum, confidence, and the habit of winning. It can give you an extra reason to keep pushing and keep at it. A winning streak can be its own reason to consistently produce.

There’s comfort in knowing you’re on a streak, but tremendous pressure too. Many times over the last two years I wondered how long I could keep it up without faltering.

“Is this the week I break my streak?” was a question I would constantly have to answer.

But as each week passed with a post on the blog, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment and answered that question by saying, “no, this is not that week.” Friday mornings would bring a sense of calm and satisfaction. But often, my greatest feeling was relief.

Fear Of Failure As Motivator

When you get on a winning streak, it’s easy to start feeling a bit of dread. What will happen when I do fail?

Other types of people would probably just focus on all the winning and not worry about an impending loss. But we Manic Impressives have more on the line. We are often haunted by the many things we’ve started and not finished in our lives. So doing something consistently is a big deal for us.

Failing during a streak can reinforce a lot of negative crap we have rattling round in our heads. We worry that once we do fail, we won’t be able to recover and we’ll fall into a self-loathing hole and be worse off than if we had never tried in the first place.

That’s why bringing a project to completion or continuing a streak is such a big deal for people like us. We have reason to worry that once we fall off that horse, we won’t be able to get back on. We’ll lose our momentum, lose interest, or get distracted by something else.

Aging Manic Impressives like me can’t afford to not finish things.

Negative Self Talk

In 2007, during the San Diego Marathon, I faced the same dilemma. I’d had a great day in 2006 and had trained hard to come back and beat my time. In 2008 I would train again, have a fabulous day and set a triumphant personal best.

But in 2007, everything was going wrong. My pre-race routine got messed up, I developed a blister and started feeling sick to my stomach.  But the thought of quitting after so much training was even more sickening.

At mile 19 my coach handed me a bottle of Gatorade. It slipped out of my hand, and as I bent over to pick it up, I nearly fell on my head. Right then I knew that if I stopped, even for a minute,  I would never regain the momentum to finish the race.

So I stumbled on, and slightly revived by the drink, managed to finish. But it was not a triumph. I suffered torture so I wouldn’t suffer shame. I pushed myself with negative thoughts of how I would feel if I did not finish.  All stick and no carrot.

My prize was feeling physically ill and not being able to eat a normal meal for almost a week.  All because of what I was telling myself.

Why The Big Deal?

Why couldn’t I just stop? No one was paying me and I’m not a pro athlete like Wilt or Edwin. No one else cared about my silly race.

Why did I punish myself instead of just quitting? So I could brag about taking 14813th place? No, that’s not it.

It’s because I am Manic Impressive – I have a nasty inner critic, and a long memory of all the times I didn’t finish something in my life.

What To Do When Your Winning Streak Is Over

So now that my lovely little streak is over, it’s important that I learn from my past. At times like this, there are only three things to do.

Celebrate

Dust yourself off and pat yourself on the back. A lot. You earned it and you need it. So you can start another streak and not fall into that hole we talked about.

Reframe Your Thinking

After you get over the disappointment, slap a big smile on your face and think about all you accomplished. You tell your inner critic to shut the hell up and you put your streak in perspective. You can’t win all the time, and being all perfectionist and negative about it won’t help.

Focus on the accomplishment and forget the coulda, shoulda, woulda. Be proud and happy that you kept your streak alive as long as you did.

Get Back On That Damn Horse

Don’t worry about winning, and don’t even try to be good. Just get back up on that damn thing. Other people can take a nice long break after a streak. But Manic Impressives need to be back in the saddle as soon as possible. If we lie around in the dirt too long, we’re likely to get distracted and start thinking about starting a worm farm.

Don’t do that. That would be stupid. Get back up on that horse.

You’re not a farmer and worms taste lousy.

 

 

 

 

How To Be Impressive When You’re Failing

Failing and impressing in publicIf you’re a risk-taking extrovert like most Manic Impressives, you’re bound to find yourself screwing up at times. These are moments that test your ability to thrive, even when your mistakes are out loud and very public. So it’s important for folks like us to know how to be impressive even when we’re failing.

Case In Point

If you show some talent with words and audiences, at some point you will be asked to get up in front of a large group to speak. Even if you find yourself failing at this, you can do it in a way that is impressive.

Like when my friend asked me to read a bible passage at her wedding. It was going to be a big formal church thing, so I showed up at the rehearsal with the passage marked in my bible. At the appropriate time, I got up and did my part.  The pastor told me that during the wedding, I would actually be reading from the giant bible on the lectern. It would be opened to the right page and the passage would be marked. Cool.

Holy Crap, I’m Failing!

But during the actual wedding, I got up to the lectern and found that every passage was marked in the giant bible. Holy Crap, what am I going to do? I scanned every part of the opened page, then flipped ahead a couple pages to see if someone had accidentally turned to the wrong page.

There was a polite “ahem” from the pastor, calling my attention to the passing time. I looked up, scanned the audience, gulped, and realized I would just have to pick a passage and go. With a thousand eyes trained on me, I chose something and began to read.

If you’re playing along at home, you can probably see it coming. Yes, it’s true.  I read a funeral passage at my friend’s wedding.

Funny Thing About That…

Two heads immediately jerked my way when I launched into a most inappropriate message for a wedding. I did my best to ignore the daggers stared at me from the pastor and the mother of the bride.

I soldiered on, finished my part, and sat down in shame. Hey, the show must go on, right? I’d suffer the consequences after.

But that’s not what happened. Immediately after the ceremony, the bride’s brother-in-law came up to me and congratulated me on my reading. “Aram, wow, that sure was a dramatic pause up there. You had us all hanging on every word!”

Not what I was expecting. Shamefully I confessed I had not paused for dramatic effect. I was totally lost and panicking in front of the packed church, not knowing what to do. He pointed out that no one seemed to notice and I had read beautifully. “Good job, Aram!”

Three Keys To Being Impressive While Failing

Looking back, there were three key things I had going for me that day. These key qualities will serve you well when you’re panicking in front of an audience, knowing you may be about to blunder.

Composure

If you’ve so far managed not to pass out or vomit, acknowledge that you’re going to be okay (there’s no recovering from unconsciousness or barf). The most important thing to do in a failing situation is to keep it together and keep moving.

Stand your ground, stick to your message, and deliver as best you can. If you can keep your composure in difficult moments and not draw more attention to your mistakes, you can still be in position to impress.

Confidence

You’re going to need this just to get up there, and you can’t get good at performing in front of others if you don’t get up onstage.

So you need to cultivate a healthy bit of confidence – enough to develop your capability and withstand the shame or ridicule that can come from failing in public.

Character

Difficult moments don’t necessarily build character. But they certainly reveal character. If you are a person of integrity and can own your mistakes, people will respect you just for that. You may not be their first call for the next speaking gig, but you can still impress them with your character.

So showing a little humility is good, but flogging yourself isn’t. Take your mistakes in stride and you’ll live to tell great stories to your grandchildren. Most every great speaker or entertainer lives through some public failure, and they often use their mistakes to entertain and enlighten future audiences.

Failing Is Relative

I endured some gentle ribbing from my performance, and yes, the mother of the bride and the pastor held it against me to some extent.

But not in the way you might think.

Many years later, at the mother of the bride’s funeral, the family asked me to do a bible reading at her ceremony.

If you’re playing along at home, you can probably see it coming. Yes, it’s true, I read a wedding passage at my friend’s mother’s funeral.

But not by mistake. By request. 

Everyone Loves A Tale Of Redemption

My wedding screw up was part of my friend’s family lore. They had enjoyed this story so much, my friend asked me to read the wrong passage on purpose. In honor of her mother.

It was one of the kindest things a person could do.  My friend gifted me the chance to redeem myself publicly. And in the spirit of the event, I managed to savor this very inside joke right along with them. And maybe even impress (or confuse) another packed house in that very same church.

So when you’re going down in flames, keep your composure and don’t draw any more attention to your mistakes. Tap into your inner confidence, and take the opportunity to reveal your character.

You just might end up impressing people because, not in spite, of your failing.

All because of Lucy. My deepest thanks to the dearest friend a guy could ever have.

 

My Surefire Method To Kill Opportunity

I just got off the phone with a business owner interviewing me for an executive coaching role with his company. A great opportunity, I really wanted impress. But halfway through the call, I realized I was about to kill opportunity.

I was talking waaaaay too much. 

My Surefire Method To Kill Opportunity

As skilled as I am at creating opportunity with words. I am equally skilled at killing opportunity with words. Too many words.

Being Manic Impressive means being good with words. Using them to inspire, enlighten, cajole and entertain. We are schmoozers and storytellers gifted in the verbal arts. We use words to charm and delight our prospects, and influence them to act on our behalf.

But too much of a good thing is very often a bad thing.

The Double-Edged Sword

Eloquent words are great weaponry in most aspects of life. But like any weapon used incorrectly, words can inflict a lot of damage to yourself.  I happen to be very good at stabbing myself this way.

I’m like a ninja assassin. But I’m constantly taking me out.

It starts out great, with me passionately answering questions and giving great examples and stories of how awesome I am. And yes, in a job interview, you do need to sell yourself.

But I often don’t know when to stop selling. And overselling, like talking too much, can be deadly when it comes to opportunity.

Talking Yourself Out Of A Deal

In my early sales training with Xerox, one of the basic concepts they preached was knowing when to make an offer and then to shut up. “Don’t talk yourself out of a deal”, they would say.

Of course, I understood the concept, in theory. But a few years later, I would fail in real-time to succeed in the practice.

After three months of knocking on doors to sell training for a new company, I finally landed an appointment with a key decision-maker. If I could close this guy, I’d get a big account that would get our new firm successfully off the ground.

Things were going great, but for some reason, I was oblivious to all the buying signals this guy was giving off. I kept pushing and kept talking. Until he finally actually said, “Hey, are you going to talk yourself out of this deal? I already said yes. Please stop selling me!”

A Lesson I Have To Keep Repeating

This guy did me a huge favor. Talk about “teachable moment!” The lesson he taught me was worth far more than the two years of business I got through the contract he signed.

But despite all that, I find myself all these years later, still having to remind myself to keep it brief. Make the point, ask for the business and shut the hell up.

Or as in the case of an interview, answer the question and move on. Don’t belabor the point. One good example is enough. A solid story to show what you can do. Be brief, and you’ll give them more time to ask you more questions.  Then you can tell more (short) stories that prove your worth.

But if you, like me, cross that invisible line by talking too much, you might test their patience.  And you never want them to start wondering if you’ll be more trouble than you’re worth.

Don’t Kill Opportunity Like Me

Be smart. Choose your words wisely and don’t overwhelm people with them. Know when to ask for what you want, and then, SHUT UP! Let the other person respond without jumping in to fill the silence.

Silence can be your best friend. Lord knows I need him with me now.