Winning Deep

I would like to tell you about two women you may not have heard of before unless you’re either a chess player or closely following the English national football team. 

Pippa Grange is a sports psychologist who is known for her outstanding work with the English team at the 2018 World Cup.

Pippa Grange. Image: Fairfax Media

She is credited with helping the team reframing fear, failure and stress helping the team reframing fear, failure and stress . Under her guidance, a very playful team managed to win penalty shout-outs and reached a commendable fourth place. After leaving the F.A. Pippa Grange wrote an excellent book, Fear Less [insert link]. In this book she introduces a concept I’d like to explain in some detail: Winning Deep and Winning Shallow. Let me paraphrase and quote Pippa (you can listen to Pippa on the Cody Royle podcast) to look at these in turn:

  • Winning Shallow is winning to avoid loss. It is competing with focus on the outcome. You are desperate not to lose and have the feeling that if you don’t win, something of your own worth is going to be lost – and you won’t be a valuable person ( “if she wins, I’m a loser”). When receiving the trophy, you feel relief rather than joy. Winning shallow is associated with the never-ending hypermasculine mentality and toxic sayings like “There is no finish line”. Winning shallow is unsatisfying because comparative and driven by scarcity: “when will I win again?”
  • Winning Deep is about real fulfilment. It is not driven by the ego but by the soul. It comes from competing to test what you’ve got, and not from comparison to others. It is winning collectively, with joy, being fully present. Winning deep is much more satisfying than winning shallow because the wins are often connected to something outside of you and your ego. It comes “from the heart, mind, and soul”.

If you’re someone whose view on high performance are solely taken from ‘The Last Dance’ (which is a great show but you should also watch Luke Longley’s counterpoint), you might care only about the winning, even if only shallow. Pippa has a 20-years career working with many athletes who were winning shallow and she has had to sometimes help them shift their viewpoints on winning. At the end of their careers, what matters is the journey and the struggles and the tears, and not having lost yourself along the way. 

The second woman I would like to talk about is Alexandra Kosteniuk.

Alexandra Kosteniuk. Photo: Anastasiia Korolkova

A highly successful player, Women’s World Chess Champion from 2008 to 2010. Alexandra just won the Women’s World Cup in 2021 and we can see how meaningful the win is to her in the post match interview.

Despite being tired, the meaning of the win shines through – especially since it has been a few years since her last major victories. She is truly appreciating the moment. 

She was a guest on Levy Rozman’s podcast and these are her reflections:

“It was a dream that came true […] I did not expect it to happen. I did not focus on the result. I enjoyed every moment of it, I did not feel the pressure. […] When you are young, you are educated that the only place that matter is the first one. When I became a mom, I wondered ‘why?’ Why not the road? why not the process? […] My point of view has shifted […] In my career of course [caring about winning] it helped me […] but I’ve always wondered how my career would go if I hadn’t had this tremendous pressure from a very early age. […] Sometimes with so much pressure I wasn’t able to perform well […] I understand now how precious every win is, how hard it is to take the first place and I just appreciate it more. 

A fantastic example of winning deep.

You can watch the rest of her interview there:

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