How Losing Made Me A Winner.   

What are you really made of? 

…Coach Weinhoffer’s dreaded words rang in my ears:  “Rayburn, you go out there.” 

For three years of youth club, four years of high school and briefly in college I was a wrestler.

I was generally above average with a senior record of 16-4-1, but did poorly in the tournaments.

My sophomore year at Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, VA I was the starting JV 145 pounder.

One week our varsity team was competing against rival McLean High School and our varsity 155 pounder was sick.

To win the dual team score we could not afford to forfeit the 155 match.

Coach Weinhoffer decided to bring not just the JV 155, pounder, Mark Steward up to Varsity, but me as well, and would decide that evening who would compete with this McLean opponent.

So let me tell you about our opponent, this155-pounder from McLean: He’d been first in the district, second in the region and sixth in the state the year before.

This year he was undefeated and predicted to win state.


Nerves throbbing, mouth dry like cotton, match by match the team score stayed close, and tension surrounding our match grew.

At the 145 pound match Mark and I still warmed up, neither knowing who it would be.

Then those dreaded words from Coach Weinhoffer rang in my ears: “Rayburn, you go out there.”

Here we go…

I started with a surprising level of confidence, going on the offensive and shooting for a takedown.

Then I was on my back.

I don’t even know how but he countered with a move that immediately put me on my back struggling not to get pinned.

Somehow I survived to the end of the period.

I wish this was a great “David and Goliath” story but it’s not… Goliath won this one.

I spent most of the match on my back, in pain, fighting just to not get pinned.

I lost 17 to 1… they call that a “superior decision.”

The “superior decision” gave McLean five teams points, instead of the six they’d have gotten had I been pinned.

I felt I like an embarrassment to the team, but they welcomed me back to the bench.

But check this out… As a team, we won!

We beat McLean by… one point… the point that Coach Weinhoffer said I saved by not getting pinned.

And at the end of the year I got a varsity letter… for losing 17-1.

Here’s the point:

Character is what you’ve got when there’s nothing else left. 

When it seems like all hope is lost, will you give up because it’s easier in the short run?

Or will you give everything you have, even if it’s for only someone else, and even if you can’t see why at the time?

I will tell you this: Losing that match was my finest moment in wrestling because…

* I proved to myself and others that I will do whatever it takes, you can count on my 100% effort.

* I had faith that going all out, enduring the pain of not getting pinned would ultimately, somehow be good. 

Ironically, by losing that match the way I did, I proved I’m a winner… and the real win wasn’t about me, it was about the team. 

What parallels can you draw for your life?

What loss have you sustained that could ultimately be a win? (Hint: Though it might be hard to see, they all can).

Please pass this on…

Live truly, truly live,


PS As always please share your thoughts about this. Also, I got fantastic responses to my last tip and will respond in my next tip.

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