During this year’s NCAA basketball “Final Four” season, billionaire Warren Buffett offered $1 billion to anyone who filled out the perfect bracket (correctly picking all the NCAA game winners).
He did that because he knew no matter how well you know sports, your chances of picking a perfect bracket are, according to UMKC math lecturer Ari Bavel, 9.2 quintillion to one. You’re literally more likely to be mauled by a shark than nail this thing! Why is it so hard to pick the perfect bracket? Because sometimes the “experts” are wrong. Sometimes the underdog wins.
That’s the beauty of the underdog. No one picked them to win – but they surprised everybody, and next thing you know they’re shocking the world by coming out on top.
Lots of us understand what it’s like to be the underdog, to be underestimated. Getting picked last in kickball. The beauty queen saying no to going out to Denny’s, because she simply doesn’t get just how cool you are underneath your “Nerds Rule” t-shirt. The job going to the tall, dark, handsome guy or to the popular girl.
Just because you start as the underdog doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. It just means you’re going to surprise some people! Here are four traits all successful “underdogs” have:
- Underdogs shine when they let underestimation become their motivation. Maybe you feel like the people around you have given you the same odds of success. Well, what they think doesn’t matter. No one else may think you’re up to the task, but YOU do. Not because of some inflated ego, but because you have confidence from knowing you were born with the gifts it takes to succeed.
- Underdogs know that money, pedigree, and status don’t always decide success: heart, tenacity, and will to win do. Some of the biggest heroes in history were underdogs. The Bible’s King David (the guy that beat Goliath) was the short, young guy whose own dad didn’t think he had what it took to succeed. (Read the story in 1 Samuel chapter 17 in the Bible – it’s pretty cool). Abraham Lincoln was a tall, awkward, bad speaker that grew up in a log cabin and barely attended school. Only once in the last ten years has the MLB team with the highest payroll won the World Series. Even if you don’t have the most resources, you can ALWAYS choose to have the most “undefeatable” spirit.
- Underdogs succeed because they say no to fear. Yes, sometimes the better team on paper is actually the better team. But successful underdogs put aside fears of going up against the powerhouses and take one game at a time instead of worrying about who they’ll take on next. Don’t sit around worrying about whether you’re as equipped as the next person to “win”. “Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the disregard of it.” Successful underdogs become champions when they live that motto.
- Successful underdogs respond well to adversity. The reason no one picks that perfect bracket is because sometimes the “experts”, the decision makers, are wrong in their assessments of strengths and weaknesses. Maybe a decision maker in your life has been wrong about you. So what? You can decide to respond to being slighted in one of two ways: by saying “you’re probably right” and retreating to your corner or saying “I know I’m better than you think I am” and let being underestimated motivate you to being even better.
So if you’re being underestimated in life, instead of letting it discourage you, let it motivate you! When you practice these four traits of successful underdogs, you’ll find success, too – and it’ll be that much sweeter.
*AP Photo/Chuck Burton