My Life's Narrator: Me
August 10th, 2015
I read once that there’s no such thing as a true war story. The stories aren’t lies, but rather misperceptions. The truth always get skewed amongst the chaos; or sometimes a soldier’s mind simply changes the facts to cope with reality. It’s a thought that has always stuck with me, and while soccer is certainly not war, players often to do the same thing. (I tend to relate everything I see, read, and hear to soccer.) We make up whatever truth gets us through the day.
When we’ve failed, we tell ourselves whatever narrative we need to keep our confidence intact.
There’s about a hundred ways to fail in this business. You can get benched, cut, traded, denied for a trial, rejected once you’ve been on trial, bashed in the newspaper, mocked by bloggers, insulted on Twitter, ripped in video session. Those are the just the ones I’ve experienced on a Monday.
I know it’s not necessarily a failure to get traded or critiqued. It's a part of the process, a product of life. But in the moment all you feel is rejection. You feel hurt and scared. Your emotional gladiator shows up to fight and logic runs out the window. I’ve wanted to punch so many people in a video session it’s alarming.
We all want to be the best. Frankly, we all think we are the best. Sometimes coaches get mad when a player thinks he should be playing over another guy. What would the coach prefer? A guy who doesn’t think he’s good enough to beat out the other guy? When I watch Barcelona, I wholeheartedly think I could do what Xavi does in that situation. When someone threatens that grand vision, it’s scary.
Failure follows you around every corner if you’re not careful.
Negativity is a way more intense emotion than affirmation. Losing hurts more than winning feels good. And getting negative feedback sticks with you longer than hearing something positive. We hear so many Monday Morning Quarterbacks, I’m not sure you could survive without some artificial confidence or intentional ignorance. It’s not a problem; it’s an asset.
All players tell themselves their own narrative of their career in their head. If you ask a guy about his career, the story he recites is almost never true, or, at least, it's a very lopsided version. It’s the version he needs. It's the version that gets him to work hard the next day.
Take Alexis Sanchez for example. I’d talk about my own career, but as I’ve already told you, I’ve never failed..
To the outside observer, Barcelona sold Alexis Sanchez because he wasn’t as good as Luis Suarez. They gave Sanchez a couple years and he never turned into the mega-superstar that Barcelona expects.
If you ask Alexis Sanchez why he wasn't good enough for Barcelona to keep him, though, the answer wouldn't be that he failed. It'll be a story of how he didn't mesh with the other attackers or the chairman didn't like him or his wife couldn't settle and it affected his play. I have no idea if those are true for Alexis Sanchez, but I’ve used all three, and I don’t even have a wife.
We rarely acknowledge in our own minds that our failures are a product of our own actions. Rather, it was a product of outside, out-of-our-control influences. It's not about shirking responsibility. It's about staying motivated.
We can always still be the best player in the world. We always have something to push for. Getting sold or embarrassed or criticized doesn’t change that. It’s a matter of changing circumstances. Getting rejected doesn’t mean you failed or aren’t good enough. It means the circumstances weren’t right. You can still be the best. You just need different surroundings.
I don’t know the exact proper way to overcome failure. If I did I’d sell it and make a bazillion dollars. I can only simply remind you: Failure is in the eye of the beholder. There’s no such thing as a true war story. Delusion is a powerful tool. If I ever needed to, I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to use it.