Don’t Quit Before the Whistle Blows

3 Reasons to Stay in the Game When You Face a Major Setback

What do you do when you find yourself down on the track while the race goes on without you? We all trip and fall. The question is what comes next?

Heather Dorniden, now Kampf, is a highly decorated runner with an impressive string of accomplishments. But what’s most impressive was the time she won first place in the 600 meter dash—after falling flat on her face.

Falling Hard

In the final 200 meters, right as Kampf took the lead, she tripped and went sprawling. Watch the race here:

You can see Kampf skid forward as her momentum throws her legs up behind her. It was a rough fall that instantly knocked her to the rear of the pack with precious little hope of catching up.

She could have easily become discouraged and admitted what everyone was already thinking—that her race was over. One of the announcers even tried smoothing it over. Since Kampf’s teammate had moved into the lead, he said, it might be okay if she came in last.

But she didn’t.

Down but Not Out

Kampf got up as fast as she went down and started catching up. To the amazement of the announcers and spectators, she passed one runner, then another, then finally her own teammate to take first place!

How often do we use our setbacks as an excuse to check out? We walk off the field before the whistle blows because it’s easier on our bruised egos and depleted resources than getting back in the race.

But Kampf’s comeback is a powerful picture of why we can’t afford to quit before the end. Sometimes the game is won in the final seconds—or even less than seconds in Kampf’s case.

Here’s an example from my own business.

Staying in the Game

A couple years back we ran a campaign for my membership site, Platform University. The initial response was below our projections, but I was tempted to let it go. The results weren’t stellar, but they weren’t terrible either. Oh, well.

Then my daughter Megan challenged me. Was I quitting before the whistle sounded? There was still time to reboot the campaign and change the outcome, she said. And she was right.

We rolled up our sleeves, retooled the campaign, and drastically changed the results. In the end we actually beat our projections. And like Kampf’s amazing win, the successful Platform University relaunch highlights three reasons to stay in the game when we face a major setback:

  1. Staying in the game builds our character. Very often in those moments where we are tempted to bail, our character is at stake. Character isn’t fixed. As Oscar Wilde said, it’s made and unmade by our decisions.

    When we push through difficulty and see things to the end, we grow. We develop our character in a positive way. When the urge to walk off the field comes—and it will—ask yourself what kind of person you really want to be.

  2. Staying in the game tests our true abilities. Whatever we think about ourselves or the future, if we walk off the track, we never really know what we’re capable of or what’s truly possible.

    Kampf could have finished without giving it her all, and no one probably would have noticed—except her. Instead, she marshaled her strength and found out what her true potential was.

    And it surprised her. “That last 50 meters, I hit a gear that I never knew I had,” she said. A setback can bring out our best if we’ll play full out regardless:

    There’s always another gear…. I always tell myself I can push through. There’s always more to discover. I like to put myself on the edge and find out what I’m made of.

  3. Staying in the game impacts others. Kampf wasn’t just running for herself. She was running for her team, for her school, for her family and community. The impact of her decision was far-reaching—even down to us discussing it today.

    There’s something at stake in every decision to stay in the game that goes well beyond ourselves. Quitting not only robs ourselves of needed character development and a deeper understanding of ourselves, it has an immeasurable impact on those around us.

The issue in all of this isn’t winning or losing, but whether we’re willing to play full out. There are real things at stake—personal, professional, and beyond.

“Not every fall I’ve had has been quite so epic,” Kampf said in a recent interview, “but I learned that it’s worth getting up every time.”

We can’t afford to cheat ourselves or the people counting on us by walking off the field before the end of the game.

Question: Have you faced a moment recently where walking off was easier than staying in the game? How did you convince yourself to stay in and see it through?

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