Leadership / Competition / Mistakes / Failures / Resilience

Leadership Moment — 3 Feb 24

Shake it off!

Mark McMillion
4 min readFeb 3, 2024

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Photo by Sophia McMillion. All rights reserved.

I didn’t wrestle in high school. I was a football / basketball / track guy. I can vividly remember coming off the basketball court after practice one day talking to a teammate about what a tough practice it had been. Then I looked up and saw the wrestling team moving towards the locker room. Those guys looked exhausted. I mean worn out, wrung-dry, and barely moving. I shut up.

At West Point, wrestling was a required phys ed class and I really liked it. I ended up wrestling intramurals three years but that was nothing compared to high school wrestling.

My two sons both wrestle now and we had a match last night. They each had three matches. One of them went 1–2 and the other was 0–3. It got me to thinking about wrestling compared to other sports and confirmed something I’d already learned.

Wrestling makes you both physically and mentally tougher. I would argue to a much greater extent than any other high school sport. Football? I love football and with the dynamic collisions it could be argued to be a more violent sport but I challenge you to defend it as tougher. Watch a kid go three periods of grinding individual combat on the mat and then let’s talk.

As for the mental part, you lose a football game, you get a week to shake it off and recover. Lose a basketball game, you usually get at least a day or two. Same with soccer, track, swimming, tennis, golf — strike that, I’m not counting golf as a sport, baseball, and softball.

You lose a wrestling match? Thirty minutes later, you’re back on the mat putting yourself to the test. It is a test.

The other thing about wrestling is it’s an individual endeavor. I know there are wrestling teams but on the mat, it’s you vs. the other wrestler. You win, it’s on you. You lose, it’s on you. No teammate missed a block or tackle, no teammate had a turnover or bad shot — it’s you.

That individual component is of great consequence. I work with lots of business leaders and there’s a huge difference between working with leaders at any other level and those at the top. At the top? They’re alone. They have no peers except in…

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Mark McMillion

Retired Army officer with two tours in Baghdad, married with four kids. Proud West Virginian and West Point grad. Works available on Amazon.