JUSTIN LANGER: Scottie Scheffler, Michael Jordan & Toby Greene love winning but they hate losing more

Justin Langer
The West Australian
6 Min Read
Scottie Scheffler and Toby Greene are always determined to win at all costs.
Scottie Scheffler and Toby Greene are always determined to win at all costs. Credit: The Nightly

Not only does Texan Scottie Scheffler have a really cool name, but he is presently the main man in the world of international golf.

In his last five events, he has won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Players Championship, the Masters, and the RBC Heritage, while finishing second at the Houston Open.

For those who don’t know golf, these achievements are massive.

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Bluntly, the 27-year-old — who just became a father last Wednesday — is on fire.

Sitting with his green Masters jacket on last month - after winning the tournament for the second time in three years - Scheffler opened up about his inner thoughts at his post-tournament press conference.

What he said really struck a chord.

“I was sitting around with my buddies this morning,” he said. “I was a bit overwhelmed. I told them, ‘I wish I didn’t want to win as badly as I did or as badly as I do’.

“I think it would make the mornings easier. I love winning. I hate losing. I really do. And when you’re here in the biggest moments, when I’m sitting there with the lead on Sunday, I really, really want to win badly.”

Over the last five years, I have been involved with a group of coaches through a company called Aleda Connect. My cohort includes head coaches from AFL, rugby league and basketball.

During that time, it has been a wonderfully supportive group of people who walk similar paths every day. Each session, we just “chew the fat” and listen to each other’s issues, or we discuss a specific topic related to our businesses.

Last week, we watched the Scheffler interview together and then analysed what we could take from his perspective.

We all agreed that the “process over outcome” mantra that he spoke about was a given.

As boring as it sounds when athletes say, “one game at a time” or “one shot at a time,” it is the truth. When we live in the past or the future, it is difficult to produce peak performance because we are not concentrating on the moment.

Scheffler talked about the need to attack at all times. Defending a lead is a sin.

His view is that you must attack every hole like it’s your last. A fearful, defensive mindset might get you somewhere, but it won’t win you titles. We all agreed with this philosophy.

Scheffler talked of his strong Christian faith, love for his family and friends, and the pending birth of his first son. He seemed like a man who had it all together, with life foundations built of granite.

But there was something in what he said about hating to lose or loving to win that got us all talking.

When you win, it is easy to talk about the foundations that make you successful.

Our discussion centred on how we deal with losing and how we move forward from failure.

Losing is way less fun, but no less important than wearing the green Masters jacket or a winning medallion around your neck. These privileges are reserved for a few, so the better you get at moving on from your bad days, the better you will become at solving the integral puzzle of success.

Just this week, I have felt the feeling of doom, a feeling I haven’t felt so strongly for a long time.

After a two-and-a-half-year hiatus from coaching, my team, the Lucknow Super Giants, just missed out on the finals of the IPL in India.

In this instance, eight months of analysis, selection, conversation, focus, and planning had gone into winning a trophy. And then, just like that, it was all over.

Despite all the effort that goes into a campaign, winning the ultimate trophy is hard. A lot must go right, and sometimes, only a few small things going wrong can completely derail your cause.

Deep down, I was hoping the break from the game would render me immune to the terrible feeling of losing. Sadly, it hasn’t.

On the one hand, this is a good thing in my field because I know for certain I haven’t lost my competitive instincts. But on the other, it’s such a gut-wrenching feeling when you lose that it takes a lot away from the enjoyment of the game.

Heading into the last game, our fielding coach, Jonty Rhodes, was sweating profusely, hitting balls, running around, and sharing his energy with the team.

Justin Langer’s Lucknow Super Giants failed to make the IPL finals.
Justin Langer’s Lucknow Super Giants failed to make the IPL finals. Credit: IDREES MOHAMMED/AFP

One of the other coaches told both of us that the assistant coaches do the sweating, and the head coach does the watching. I replied, “Yes, the assistant coaches sweat on the outside; we sweat on the inside.”

I am sure many business owners or leaders with skin in the game would understand this way of thinking.

Much as we love what we do, it is on the bad days that we really question why we do it.

There is a lot to be said for needing to fail so we can truly enjoy the successes, but when you are going through the failures, you must dig deep to recognize this concept or perspective.

The great Michael Jordan famously said: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

During our last Aleda Connect meeting, I explained to my mates that I was really hoping that my perspective away from the game would soften or improve my reaction to defeat.

While my broader perspective has always been strong, I have to admit there is no real remedy to how I handle immediate failure.

I move through the opaque feelings of doom a lot quicker these days, but when a loss hits me in the face, it is a gloomy emotional state.

In my case, I tend to be very quiet and like to be alone; that’s how I am wired, and as hard as I try, I can’t seem to find another solution.

Everyone does it differently. Some laugh it off, others punch walls or swear and shout. While reactions vary, the feeling always hangs like a dark cloud.

Toby Greene after the Giants lost the Preliminary Final last year.
Toby Greene after the Giants lost the Preliminary Final last year. Credit: Robert Cianflone/via Getty Images

One of the great interviews I’ve seen was with GWS captain Toby Greene immediately after his team lost last year’s AFL Preliminary Final to Collingwood by a single point.

“It’s hard to reflect on the season when you get that close,” he told Channel 7. “That one hurts. That one really hurts.

“It’s a tough changeroom at the moment, but we’ll come together. We’ll come back stronger. You put yourself out there, you get that close, that’s what happens.

“It was an awesome year, but once you get this close, you want to go on and win it. We felt like we were good enough, but that’s off to Collingwood. They were tough tonight.

“Flip of a coin, really. In the end, it just hurts.”

It wasn’t just the words he used but rather the body language he exuded that day.

He was physically and mentally spent, and his raw, emotional candour could be felt through the television screen.

This is how losing feels. Your mind goes into a spin, which affects the way you look, feel, and act. Some can hide it, others can’t.

When your team wins or loses, it affects how you feel. The same can be said about your business. Good and bad days have an effect no matter who you are. We have all felt this to different degrees in our lives, depending on how invested we are.

We all accept that winning and losing is a part of life, and maybe they do need to co-exist to help us appreciate the good times.

But after my experience last week, I will say it again — just as I have been saying since I was a kid — winning is much more fun than losing, especially when you have skin in the game.

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