My beloved 49ers, terrible for so many dark years, made it to the NFC Championship game on Sunday and they lost.
One way to sum up the game: It was close. It was cruel. It is over. They will not advance to the Super Bowl. The dream has been denied.
Another way to look at it: This is why we watch football…for all that can go right or go wrong in a single moment. This loss will make every future win that much sweeter. This loss does not undo an entire season of wins. This loss does not take the shine off the magic that was the Saints game last week that will live in my memory – and so many others’ – for as long as I’m alive. This loss does not replace the pure joy it was to watch them in action all season.
We showed up to the dance and we didn’t clinch it all. But do you know what it takes to show up to the dance every day, every week, every game, every Championship Sunday? Sometimes we fall short, but I promise you the 49ers did not get to Sunday without working their asses off as a team and focusing on excellence, excellence, excellence. They did not get there by thinking they would fall short. They did not get there by letting the doubters get in their heads.
Imagine if every business, every company and every leader played each day like Championship Sunday? For every product you ship, for every line of code you perfect, for every campaign that is a huge success, for every customer you truly take care of…you show up to the dance and play like you’re in it to win it.
What will the 49ers do now? Be excellent in figuring out how they could have done better, what they didn’t correctly assess, what they could have anticipated, what they should have prevented. They will be excellent in figuring out how they could have been more excellent. Same as Plancast’s Mark Hendrickson in his brave post-mortem about how a business is built and the value of asking the hard questions when you don’t win.
Win or lose, it is the pursuit of something larger than ourselves. Win or lose, it is the thrill of the game – whether your game is football or startups or health care reform or getting clean water to all.
Winning is sweet. Losing and showing up to the dance again and again asking “how can we be more excellent” questions along the way? Equally sweet (though not at first blush) and perhaps more poignant.
Let’s be those companies. Let’s be those teams. Let’s be those leaders. Every day. Game. On.
Image shared by @DarrenRovell