Chad Runyon is an award-winning vocal performer, conductor, and instructor.

Posted October 3rd, 2014
Filed under Essays

Love To Win vs. Hate to Lose

What motivates me to give the best possible performance when I walk onstage? What attitude do I take to rehearsal?  When I consider accepting a role or concert set, does the difficulty or simplicity of the piece excite me or make me want to run for the hills?

Commentator and former tennis champion John McEnroe made an interesting comment during the Wimbledon Men’s Single’s final on July 6, 2014. He said he was always a player who hated to lose and wished he could have been more like his primary rival, Jimmy Connors, who loved to win.  During the 2014 championship, Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer, he said that Djokovic plays like he hates to lose, and Federer plays like he loves to win.  “On the surface it sounds like the same thing, but it’s not,” he said.  Since hearing this, I’ve thought a lot about my own motivations as I approach singing and performance.

First thought, love is positive and hate is negative. When our major motivation is positive, we are likely to have thoughts like, “I want to get this down tonight,” “I can’t wait to sing this piece,” or “I love to perform.”  If our major motivation is negative, we are more likely to have thoughts like, “I wonder if I am right for this role,” “I hope I don’t suck tonight” or, “I can’t wait until this show is over.”   Further, we find ourselves saying “no” to projects we aren’t sure we will excel in.  A role that seems overwhelming, or a vocal range that is on the edge of being right for us, we will simply decline.  We would rather turn down the offer than embrace the challenge.

In an article for Psychology Today, Nate Kornell, Ph.D. says, “psychological research shows that people vary on a continuum called regulatory focus.  Promotion-focused [positive] people are driven by the thought of winning.  Prevention-focused [negative] people are driven by the desire to avoid losses. You love to win or you hate to lose.  Most of us never think about regulatory focus. We assume we love to win AND [hate] to lose. But think about it, because it can change your desire to engage in competition in the first place.”

After a successful performance, how do we feel when the ovations and curtain calls are over?  If we feel exhilarated and want to jump up and down and hug everyone in sight, we love to win.  If we are glad we survived the night, glad we didn’t mess up and glad the whole thing is over, we hate to lose.

As performers, we have an opportunity to shift our focus toward what’s positive. So, as we get ready for our next audition, or we go to our next rehearsal, or we head onstage for our next performance, we can think to ourselves, “this is a great opportunity for me to share my talent and hard work.  I’m ready.  I love performing and I’m going to savor each moment … and win.”