Ever deal with a sore loser at a karate tournament? Ever see someone mess up their kata, bomb their division, and blame everything around them for their result, refusing to take responsibility for their mistakes?

We’ve all seen this, and no one likes a sore loser.

But wait…. Have you ever been that person? 😂 Sure you have. We’ve all had moments like these.

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So, let’s go back to this person who’s just lost their division. Let’s say it’s me. I just lost, spectacularly. What are my feelings right now? Disappointment, definitely. Embarrassment. Shame even. Losing sucks, and I’m feeling a slew of negative emotions right now.

But let’s face it: when have any of us performed a perfect kata, particularly under a high stress situation like a tournament? Probably never. But sometimes, like right now, when that disappointment is great, accepting the weight of my mistakes is difficult. I don’t want to feel those uncomfortable feels, so I shift the responsibility elsewhere.

“The judges were out to get me.”

“The results were unfair.”

“The other competitors cheated.”

“The audience was too loud.”

I don’t want to accept that I messed up, so I focus on external factors, and shift the blame there instead.

Anger or resentment is far easier to deal with than the shame of failure.

But if I do this—if I blame everything around me for my kata result—I’m doing myself a huge disservice. If I can’t accept that I made mistakes, I can never learn from those mistakes or fix them. And if I can’t fix them, I can never improve, or grow. I’ll stay stuck where I am, trying to protect my fragile ego, easily bent out of shape when things don’t go my way. A sore loser, in essence.

Reality check: you can’t fix what you don’t see as broken.

You want to get better at karate? Accept that you mess up. Embrace the suck. Because it’s only by accepting that and humbling yourself that you can hope to get better.

So, back to our scenario. I’ve just lost my division, and the disappointment is overwhelming. Instead of blaming external forces for the loss, what can I do instead?

I can face reality: I didn’t want to lose, but I did. And despite all of my hard work and preparation, I screwed up. And that totally sucks. And now I feel disappointed and embarrassed and ashamed, and I don’t like how any of that feels right now. But I can sit with those feelings, and really let myself feel them. Because if I do that? Well, this is the magical part. If I really face it, and work through those tough feels, now I have an opportunity for growth.

Ever hear of a growth mindset? This is where you believe that you can improve over time. You’re not either talented or you’re not; you’re not either good at karate or you’re not. Anyone can get better at stuff; everyone can get better. And mistakes and failures—these are normal.

Instead of seeing mistakes as a sign of weakness, people who adopt a growth mindset see them as challenges to overcome, and opportunities for learning and self-improvement and growth.

Think back to that kata. I made mistakes; of course I did. But rather than beat myself up over it or attack everyone around me, I can say hey, I can fix those mistakes. I have something to work on now.

And the next time I perform, guess what? Well, I’ll probably still make mistakes. But if I adopt a growth mindset, it won’t lay so heavy in my heart when I do mess up.

No one was out to get me, this was absolutely my fault, and that totally sucks. And I don’t like how that feels. But now I have something to work on. Now I can see what needs to be fixed, and now I can get better.

If your goal really is to kick ass at karate, then the most important part is to accept where you’re at right now. So face those mistakes, accept them, fix them, and grow.

Have you ever lost a division and had a difficult time accepting the results? What helped you get through it? And what did you learn from that process?