Key Takeaways:

  • Kanter’s Law
  • Doom Loops
  • Low Expectation = Low Results

“Kanter’s Law” – Everything can look like a failure in the middle – applies even within a single game.


Confidence seems more abstract while winning. It becomes harder to explain because things have a tendency to just fall in place. There is a rhythm that seems to occur unconsciously and the only objective is not to disrupt the good times by deviating from what has been working, right?

But losing; losing feels different. It’s heavy. And there seems to be an endless amount of ways to describe what’s gone wrong.

As a point guard, there were times when plays would develop without recognition. Easy buckets transpire from a combination of timing, execution, and ability. After consecutive sequences of success, there is this growing confidence that it is going to continue to happen without disruption. Yet, following a turnover there is this instantaneous analysis of what went wrong or how did that happen. The inability to break from the over-analysis can lead to an erosion of confidence. What starts as a momentary mentality can become cyclical. The latest chapter from Confidence is about losing streaks and why they persist. And after these last couple of seasons, I am all too familiar with a Losing Streak.

It’s not mistakes that cause winners to lose, it’s panic.


Doom Loops

Losing causes stress. Stress causes panic. It is far easier to make irrational decisions when panicked.

The perspective of Kanter’s Law is the microcosm of a doom loop within any game, or stretch of losses. Similar to the above example during my playing days as a point guard; it is easy to get caught up in one turnover then let it distract you from doing your job on a later possession. The “Doom Loop” is the downward spiral of compounding mistakes. Whether it is stress or panic, there is a sense of losing control of the outcome. During losing streaks, we surround the whiteboard with the coaching staff searching for how to make the necessary adjustments, ignoring the pits in our stomach of possible hopelessness. The challenge is to not look for the quick fix that compromises core values that have either built success in the past or had previously put the program/player on a path to success.

Losing streaks begin in response to a sense of failure, and failure makes people feel out of control. It is just one more step to a pervasive sense of powerlessness, and powerlessness corrodes confidence.


These are the nine characteristics attributed to losing that corodes the cornerstones of confidence:

  • Communication decreases
  • Criticism/blame increases
  • Respect decreases
  • Isolation increases
  • Focus turns inward
  • Rifts widen
  • Inequities grow
  • Initiative decreases
  • Aspirations diminish
  • Negativity spreads

Lowering Expectations

The temptation is to lower the expectations. Asking yourself, “Maybe we aren’t as good as we thought.” As confidence declines, so can drive.

They were mired in “learned helplessness,” a state identified by psychologist Martin Seligman, in which repeated failures to get out of a difficult situation teach people not even to try.


Who hasn’t heard these before?

  • If we aren’t winning, why should I try as hard?
  • If coach isn’t playing me, why should I care about effort?
  • If I am not making shots, why should I even look to shoot?

The easy way out is the path of least resistance – to quit. Confidence gets killed when there is a combination of self-deprecation combined with purposelessness. And when we talked about Winning Streaks in the first couple of chapters, we defined confidence as the bridge between expectations and performance. Consequently, lowering expectations leads to lower levels of performance.

Because hopelessness, amplified by helplessness, can make people feel there is no point in trying to improve the situation because there’s not much they can do about it, initiative decreases, and hopelessness becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

PAGE 110

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