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Winning After A Loss

A few weeks ago I won gold at a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition in Brisbane. It was my first win as a brown belt.


A win is great, but what was special about this win was the fact that only 1 week before I was beaten in my first competition as a brown belt. Soundly beaten. I was put into a chokehold after about 10 seconds and fought for the next 2 minutes trying to get out of it. I finally had to tap (submit) or pass out.


What’s worse was that it was my home competition and everybody from my club was watching.


It’s interesting what goes through your head after a loss. There’s frustration, self-pity, doubt, embarrassment, just to mention a few emotions. Even though I know I deserve to be at my new rank, there’s just something about the human psyche that makes you question your ability after a loss.


Do I deserve to be here? Is everybody else at this level way better then me? Will I continue to get beaten at these competitions?


So what did I do?


I adopted the growth mindset, which I always do. I analysed the loss. Broke it down and learned from it. I asked my coach and myself how I could improve and what I could implement to ensure it didn’t happen again.


Simply put… I went to work. I went straight back to training on Monday night and began to work even harder to improve the deficiencies in my game. I didn’t make excuses as to why I lost. I accepted it, learned what I could and formed a plan to get better.


That night I looked online for the next BJJ competition. It happened to be on that weekend, so I entered.




Because I’d experienced a similar situation previously: As a newly promoted purple belt, I entered my first competition and was also soundly beaten. Back then I also chose to apply the growth mindset by analysing, learning and improving my game.


I entered the next BJJ competition, which happened to be in Melbourne at the Arnold Classic and won both my weight and open divisions. It was a great learning experience.


This is why I chose to enter the competition the very next weekend. I wanted to challenge myself again and see what I’d learned and improved on from my loss the previous weekend.


I experienced the customary pre-competition nerves, which is normal and absolutely fine as long as you don’t let those nerves get the better of you and impact your performance. This is where breathing is so important. Deep, rhythmic and slow belly breathing will keep the body flooded with oxygen, calm the nerves and focus your attention.


I felt good and ready for competition and came away with the victory.


What was really great about the competition is that I felt like I belonged. It validated that I could compete at this level and that I could perform well.


It wasn’t the fact that I won, but the fact I fought well, competed and matched the level of my competitors.


It also confirmed that training hard is what matters the most. Not natural born talent, but consistency of effort, persistence, determination and personal drive.


So, after a loss in life, adopt the growth mindset. Analyse your loss, determine why you lost, what your deficiencies and shortcomings are and form a plan to overcome them and improve.


Then make a conscious effort to challenge yourself again to see if your plan has worked and if you have grown, adapted and ultimately, improved.


You never fail. You either win or learn.


Rhys Dowden

Operator Edge

Thoughts? Leave a comment below!

About the Author

Rhys Dowden is the owner of Operator Edge, a company through which he provides to his clients extensive mental conditioning along with military, self-defense, and strength training.

Growing up in Queensland, Rhys enlisted in the Army as soon as he was 18 and then served a little more than four years in the Royal Australian Armored Corps.

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