One thing certain in life is we all face challenges in everything we are involved in from work, relationships, our homes, hobbies and the list goes on. It’s very easy to get caught in a downward spiral when we face adversity and before you know it we’re in a funk. Here I share an idea I picked up from a coach I try to incorporate in these situations.
Terry Rooney, a college baseball coach and once the Head Coach of the University of Central Florida baseball team years ago shared a concept he called, The Midnight Rule. In college baseball, each school plays around 60 games per season and even if you are a really good team winning around 40 games, you are going home losing 20 times. He was clear in stating at midnight each player and the team must move on to the next day and not dwell on a loss. Be upset, frustrated, pissed off, etc. but at midnight it was time to move forward. Carrying baggage and negative energy would not benefit anyone and not help the team be in the right mindset for the next game.
When I heard him describe this it really stuck with me and I began implementing it at work, training, racing, and relationships. I remember using this at work often. We are often confronted with situations, new policies that don’t make sense to us, contradictions, politics and changes that may be out of our control and frustrates us greatly. I found sharing my thoughts with one of my close peers I trusted with anything was a great way to sort through things in the moment. Often we would be frustrated with the same thing, bitch about it, but we always came back the next day identifying how we could work through it, influence it, challenge it in a progressive manner, and make the best of it. My trusted colleague and I were both on the same page with that…how we could have a positive impact and move forward for us as individuals, peers and our teams.
Racing triathlons, duathlons, and run races are certainly humbling with training challenges, setbacks, disappointments and frustrations abound. What I have learned here is it’s a journey. We all have bad days and races and we better have them or we are not human. Knowing that bad days and races occur, I attempt to take what I can from them and learn something. Sometimes it could be I simply didn’t have it on a particular day. It happens… Other times I may not have the answer right away but my action after midnight for the next day may be to take a positive action to search for understanding why something happened…research, ask a coach or friend, etc. Taking a bad day into the next could certainly impact the quality of the next effort or race and teammates around me.
I have a nuance to this rule I have found through experience over the years. Occasionally, the midnight rule may come a day later or even the day after that but hopefully it’s not a trend or there may be a bigger issue to address. Usually these come when there is more at stake. An example of the extension for me occurred last year when on the same day I received two separate emails announcing both my World Championship races were canceled due to COVID-19. These were going to be my first World Championships and two ‘A’ races for the year. The down feeling trickled into the next day. I started thinking what I would focus on next and planned for my next race and remainder of the year. I got the mojo back but these types of things can set you back a bit longer than midnight.
Another nuance extension example may be that you are working through something that takes a few days to sort out as you are struggling with a situation, usually again with high-stakes that weigh on you and your emotions. Sometimes not jumping to the Midnight Rule is ok as you are processing and working through things but at some point you will know when you need to move forward in some way. This is easier said than done and I certainly struggle implementing these nuances. Life is tough and there is a lot of gray to sort through.
I leave with a few tips that have worked for me and I have to remind myself of when I’m struggling:
- It’s ok to vent, be sad, frustrated…let it all out today
- Even if you had a great day or win, celebrate today and at midnight it is over and time to focus on what is next…watch out for complacency
- Next day – focus on what you have control over and take a step forward as small as it may be
- If you don’t have answers and that’s ok, seek them and give yourself time to figure things out in a progressive manner
- Reach out to those you trust for insights, tips, and to help you move forward (sometimes together)
- Look for trends to address further
- In high-stake situations…flex the midnight rule but try not to linger too long
- Be kind to yourself as you navigate through these situations…life is tough