Winners and Losers

I don’t know anyone who likes losing.  And I know lots of people who say they want to win–or be successful–in a variety of things in this life.  Sports, money, business, relationships, etc.

The pain of losing.

This weekend at my daughter’s soccer tournament in Park City I realized the difference between winning and losing.  Until last month her team, made up of 11 and 12 year-old girls, hadn’t lost a game in about 11 months and, in fact, won gold in their age group at the Summer Games in Cedar City, Utah.  By all counts they were and are “winners.”  But after this weekend in Park City I see more clearly now that not losing isn’t what defines them as winners.

This was not their best tournament.  They know they played uncharacteristically poorly on Friday.  But they still squeaked into the semi-finals on Saturday as the #1 team in their bracket.  Then they lost again, 3-1, against a team they beat just last month 3-0.  Tears flowed from a few of the girls, including my daughter which strangely always makes me proud, and most if not all of the girls wore their pain on their faces.  I believe that pain, however expressed, is the critical element in separating winners and losers.

  • Losers lose. And find a way to get comfortable with the pain.
  • Winners win and lose.  BUT, winners quickly reject the pain of losing, learn why they lost and boldly do what it takes to avoid that pain of losing ever again.

I am a passionate, competitive person and I have thought most of my life that if you want something badly enough you will get it; that you can will yourself to win.  I still think that is true BUT without the hard work BEFORE the deciding moment of winning and losing there is no guarantee that you will get what you want–the win!  Crucially, winners who lose get the importance of hard work and preparation.  There is NO magic formula for success, there really is only hard work fueled by a strong desire to not feel the sting of loss.

It is simply not enough to show up to a game, a presentation, a marriage and say you want success.  You have to want to succeed well beforehand and that desire can only be displayed by the effort you put into the preparation.  Too many people, including me, think that whoever has the bigger heart on the field, in the boardroom, at the lectern, wins.  Not so.  It is he who has the bigger heart consistently on the practice field, in the cubicle, in the cramped airplane seat, that is far more likely to win–get the outcome they want.  That is where greatness is made.  And the most important thing we must remember as we endure the blood, sweat, and tears of preparation is that that work will translate to the moment when points are kept, deals are awarded, and history made.

So, what do winners do when they lose?  (And winners do lose.)  Blame others?  Beat themselves up?  Quit?  Avoid the risk of losing by dreaming smaller?  No!  Winners display resilience.  They bounce back by working harder and REMEMBERING how it feels to lose and let that sting of losing push them to work harder so they minimize the chance of getting stung again.

Go Kylie and Logan Lynx!  You are winners!

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