I'm talking about when you become a bench player...a reserve player...a role player...a member of the ensemble cast/chorus...
Okay, you get the point. But one of the toughest things with which we each must deal at some point in our lives is playing a part of the supporting cast in some operation, especially when we feel we have the talent to be the lead.
In sports, it happens all too frequently. You can only have so many starting players, so a platoon of reserves are kept on the sidelines in case of injury or a specific circumstance that requires a different player.
But it can happen in many other areas of life, too. Perhaps you were picked to play 3rd trumpet instead of 1st. Maybe you were cast as a supporting character with few lines in the play. Or maybe you were just glanced over for that promotion you deserved at your company.
If you heard our earlier episode on our podcast "How You Play The Game," you know exactly what I mean.
The first thing to note in these situations is that it is completely natural to feel all the emotions associated with loss. If you're disappointed, angry, frustrated, or feeling any sort of grief, don't fight it! When you suppress those emotions, they come back later in an even bigger (and more detrimental) way.
(Side note: if you know someone who is going through this, sympathy and empathy are key. Don't try to offer an explanation. Just be there for your grieving friend.)
The next thing to examine (when you're ready) is how you can still play an important part in your team's success. You may have to "mute" the micro to look at the macro, i.e. put your current feelings on hold to look at the big picture. Sometimes, you have to suffer through something unfair to be rewarded later.
The final thing to remember is that all of these situations have open endings. There's no magic word to solve them. They can go in any direction, and you have to be ready for the challenges that lie ahead. Maybe the starting quarterback gets injured in the first game and it's up to you to carry the team for the rest of the year. Maybe the lead in the play becomes sick and you have to step in.
If you can, try to remember that all of these experiences can teach us the greater lesson of how a team succeeds together. The last guy to make the team can play an equal part in the team's success with encouragement, assistance, and some truncated playing time. Just because you're a small cog in the machine doesn't mean you don't help the machine work.