As a high school sophomore I sat on a yellow school bus with my football team and wiped away the tears as I listened to one of the greatest life lessons that I would ever hear. We had come so close to winning this game. We were going to win. We should have won. We had them. We were on the one yard line about to score. All that stood between us and an undefeated season (and a district championship) was one fumble on the goal line.
The fumble happened.
We lost by 3 points.
Into this bitter disappointment our head coach, Richard Bethell, taught one of those lessons that athletics seems especially suited to teach. He said, “Men, when you face defeat, failure, and disappointment you have three choices.” He laid out our choices:
You can quit
You can make excuses or blame others, or
You can go to work
Often the profound is simple. Sitting on that bus all I could think about was football. Many times since then, however, the wisdom of these three choices has fit my life.
I am capable of each choice from time to time. I prefer #3. I try to avoid #2 at all costs. I consider #1 only if the situation makes it clear that I have been pursuing something that is not worth my effort or is bad for me — but I am constitutionally not a quitter.
After my senior year Coach Bethell sent a letter to all of us seniors who played offensive line for him that season. As we went out into our adult lives he reiterated this lesson we had learned two years earlier. He spoke of adversity we had overcome in both our freshman and senior years. Here is an excerpt from the letter he wrote us:
Earlier in the letter he called that loss our sophomore year his “greatest loss as a coach.” He had felt that sting as deeply as we had.
So the lesson remains with me in life to this day. I hope you will make it your lesson as well. When you face defeat in your life you have a decision to make about your future — your Forward Story.
You have three choices. Which will it be?