The underdog advantage

Anyone watching the FIFA World Cup right now would agree that it’s been a year of upsets so far. But even going in, there was an understanding that it would be a groundbreaking event… Just because teams like Brazil, Portugal and Germany have historically had success didn’t mean much – with Belgium being toted as the ones to watch.

As I am writing this, I’ve seen South Korea beat Germany and send them packing. Portugal lost to Uruguay, Argentina was knocked out by France and Croatia of all nations is top of their Group. There is still a whole lot of football to be played, but even now it is interesting to see a trend forming. No longer are certain teams superior to other just because of their nationality – or necessarily by certain players.

Teams cannot simply rely on Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar or Villa to make them great. There’s a whole new team element that is coming into play. And it has been incredible to see the change in equilibrium as a result of better infrastructure and the ‘globalisation’ of soccer. Players all around the world are becoming more and more equal in their ability and skill based on easier access to science, technology, coaching and finance. It no longer pays to be the ‘big dog’ in the game. It’s the underdogs that make the biggest impacts.

Just think of some of the most memorable moments in World Cup history. All of them have either been scandalous (remember the ‘hand of God’ moment with Suarez) or an underdog story. The latter is really the best of memories: where a team has defied the odds, the rankings and the momentum of their opposition to win.

It’s the same in our lives.

Some of you might be reading this and struggling with your self-belief. Whether you feel useless because of comparison with others, ashamed due to something you have done or are still doing, afraid and insecure as a result of past experiences – you can find yourself trapped in your thinking. But being weak in an area RIGHT NOW does not mean that you have to stay that way.

Here are a few keys in how you can turn your present weaknesses into incredible tales of victory:

Decide your attitude

Not the easiest thing to hear, but unless you do this you won’t be able to change anything at all. We all wish we could change what happened to us or change what we have done, but we can’t. You cannot change the past. But you can change your attitude towards the past. When you look at your failures, the injustice was done to you or the mistakes others have made that affected you, do you cower into self-pity or use them as fuel to change?

In any underdog situation in sport, victory will require a moment where the attitude changes. It’s that moment where the players become indignant – they DECIDE that enough is enough and their determination is fuelled by the odds stacked against them.

You need to turn the pity party around, and put all that energy to work proving the odds wrong. The question is – do you want to live life proving every prediction made about you right. Or will your life be memorable enough to stand out and prove those predictions wrong?

Everyone has negative things said about them. But that doesn’t mean they have to be true. You decide what sticks and whether your teacher saying you won’t amount to anything will be true. You decide whether you will be a failure as a father or husband or not. It’s your choice whether you will think of yourself as ugly or not. You DECIDE what attitude will define you.

Filter the feedback

Wise counsel is needed to beat the odds. You are going to need good strategies, supportive direction and the cheers of the crowd. But you need to be prepared for the opposite as well.

I have come to realise that some people really struggle to accept when you change or rise above the ‘norms’. When people are familiar with your failures, they might not be the greatest fans of your progress.

Just like when an underdog team begins to make headway, the supporters of the opposing team will begin to ‘wolf-whistle’ and jeer at your victories. And if you are not focussed, they could get to you and halt your progress. That’s why you need to be very careful to filter the feedback you receive.

Sometimes people won’t have your best interest at heart because they have bet on you failing. Whether they need to feel superior due to insecurity, feel uncomfortable because they begin comparing, or are defensive because things are going their way – their motives are not healthy and should not sway you in changing your life around.

Know the coach

You need to know what your prize is. You need to know the direction of the goal posts. Focussed on what winning would look like for you. But in order for you to understand all of this, you need solid training. You need a good coach.

I believe that the only way you can truly win in life – defy the odds and get over the internal and issues you have – is to be obedient to the ultimate life-coach: God himself. He created you, knows your strengths. He knows the field he has placed you on and what you’re capable of.  God knows the team’ you are doing life with. And He also knows the opposition.

In terms of life itself, God has multiple strategies on how you can be the underdog and win the game. He sent his Son Jesus to captain your team. He’s by your side – constantly making passes and defending you. He wants to help you outmanoeuvre your opponents and set you up for the most epic shots at goal.

I was once an underdog – shy and timid, stuck in depression, affected by abuse, a victim of my circumstances and tied up in all kinds of bad living – but knowing Jesus and daily going to him has completely transformed me. I now lead and influence people in a way I never thought possible – and many people who knew me early on are extremely surprised by it. But it wasn’t simply just my own effort that got me to where I am. I can honestly say there are elements that only God could have done in me changing. If you would like that kind of change for yourself – click on the link below.

I believe you can be transformed. Cheering you on. Can’t wait to see how God uses us all to overcome our situations and see Africa win like never before (in general and in the World Cup one day, I pray!).

Questions or comments? We’d love to hear what you think.

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