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With the Super Bowl coming up this Sunday, I want to invite you to notice something important during the game. Odds are, in the fourth quarter there will be a team that is clearly losing. At some point the camera will pan some of the players on the sidelines of the losing team. What you will likely see is that some of them are very somber or angry, perhaps one or two even slamming their helmets on the ground or some other physical expression of frustration. Keep watching and you will likely see one or two engaged in casual conversation with each other. They will appear relaxed, even smiling or joking with each other. What is going on here? Don’t they know they are losing the most important game of their career? Don’t they know that the result of this game is the single most significant piece of feedback they will get on how the world views and judges them? Yes, they know. And they aren’t taking it on as defining who they are. They are committed. They care. And they aren’t wrapped up in the outcome being an indicator of who they are or whether they are good enough. They are detached.

Who do you think perform better in the long run? Research shows it is not the helmet pounders. It’s the smilers. The ability to commit to a goal, to care deeply about it, yet detach your sense of self-worth from the outcome is a key driver of success. For me, this was very counter-intuitive. My first reactions to the smilers was, “They don’t care. How can they possibly really care if losing isn’t tearing them up?” But they do care. They just don’t let it impact who they are. The greatest players all have the ability to “shake it off” after throwing an interception, fumbling the ball, missing the key field goal, or…losing the Super Bowl. They feel the disappointment…then they let it go. It’s just that simple. And that hard.

And guess what. This doesn’t just apply to football.