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Losing can make you a Winner

Updated: Mar 8

Many people in business, and life, celebrate their wins and mourn their losses. We are all taught from childhood that "winners are grinners" and we should all aspire to be on a winning team. Statistically we can't all be winners or can we?

Rarely do we celebrate a loss. But, paradoxically, we learn more from losing than from winning. In order to become a winner you have to gain experience by competing at the right level. "Practice makes perfect" is how the saying goes. There is a fantastic story that was told

by golfing legend Gary Player. It went something like this;

I was practicing in a bunker down in Texas and this good old boy with a big hat stopped to watch. The first shot he saw me hit went in the hole. He said, “You got 50 bucks if you knock the next one in.” I holed the next one. Then he says, “You got $100 if you hole the next one.” In it went for three in a row. As he peeled off the bills he said, “Boy, I’ve never seen anyone so lucky in my life.” And I shot back, “Well, the harder I practice, the luckier I get”.

Similar quotes have been attributed to many professional sports people and successful business people.

Winning, Losing or Just Going For It

So what is more important in business, and life? Winning, Losing or Just Going For It. Tennis great Arthur Ashe once said; "You've got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing.” He won three Grand Slams and he also won the Australian Open in 1970.

There have been many successful people who have been losers and got "back on the horse" and moved on. So why do we see such an emphasis on winning? The reality is that we all cannot be winners all of the time. Some people may never win what they see as the premier event in their lifetime. But are they really losers. As a trainee sales rep I was told that it took ten no's to get a yes. It was often hard to pickup the phone again or to book the next meeting. But I found that if I spent time determining what I did, or said, wrong and applied the knowledge to the next call it got easier. The 'YES' answer came more easily and more often.

I played many sports during my life the one that taught me most of all was Rugby. It truly personifies the ideas behind "if you get knocked down then get up again...". Sometimes the hits really hurt but you have to get back in the game and carry your load. I cringe when I see top level football players roll on the ground looking for the penalty.

If you have ever followed Rugby Union you will know the awesome reputation of the New Zealand All Blacks. The one trait that they excel in is that they NEVER STOP TRYING and they set the game strategy. The teams that have lost to the All Blacks went away with a better knowledge of the game and their own weaknesses.

The teams that beat them know that they have played a game a rugby that they will never forget. When the game finished you don't see the All Blacks bemoaning their loss but rather lining up to congratulate the winners.

All Blacks Haka - Shutterstock

Do not get me wrong I love to win. But I have found that winning is not everything. The very first thing that you need to wrap your head around is that a winning performance is never an individual accomplishment. Any winner in history whether they be a player in a rugby team, a tennis player, a boxer or a sales rep or business owner has a committed and capable team supporting them. Sometimes we lose sight of who our supporters are or what they do. Losing is bummer. But losing is not the end of the world as we know it.

How can we learn when we lose?

Every time you go out on the field, the court, or the sales call you have to be prepared to play your best game and perform as a professional. You can do that by not repeating stupid mistakes and treating those around you with respect.

Analyse the loss and what you can do better.

There are some great exercises that you can do with your colleagues. Role playing is one of the best that helps you analyse your performance. Simply replay your sales calls or business decisions to determine different outcomes that might occur. It can be a little embarrassing at first but it is a fantastic learning experience.

"All men make mistakes but only wise men learn from their mistakes." Winston Churchill

Evaluate your weaknesses and strengths.

Some people are better at one thing versus others. You need to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Asking another team member, with with skills that complement your own, to help build your strengths and confidence is a perfect way to improve your performance. It is a mutually beneficial exercise and will strengthen the team overall.

Review what was done by your competitors.

You need to know your competition. Professional sports people and teams will spend hours watching replays of the competition. You should know your competition and their products and services almost as well as your own. When I was in sales I often called up a competitors sales representative after a sale and congratulated them. It is amazing what they will tell you.

Ask for a review.


Win or lose ask your customer for a review of activities. Most people will agree. Congratulate the customer for making a decision and do not play the bruised loser. Do not try to change the decision. The more you learn in the process the better off you will be. Ask a simple question at the end; "is there anything you think I could have done better to help you?". Antidotally, I have won back a number of customers who went to a competitor just because I kept in touch.

Play to your strengths and not your competitions weaknesses.

Too often people lead in to a game, or a negotiation, by targeting the competitions weaknesses. It never works. If the competition is strong then they will have those weaknesses covered just as you should cover your weaknesses. So set the game plan playing to your key strengths.

Play the whole game and not just the start.

Many games get lost in the final minutes or through penalty shootouts. Support your team even when you have nothing left to give and they will have your back when you need it.

There is always the next game or the next sale. But remember play to your strengths and not the competitions weaknesses.

Cathy Freeman won the 400 metre gold medal in the Sydney 2000 Olympics by reaching for the unreachable. But she did not just turn up on the day and do her best she trained to win. In an interview with David Parsons of Reuters she said; "I think I am handling the pressure quite well at the moment. However, running is not my whole life and if I don’t win the gold medal life will go on."

Author: John Debrincat, Principal Consultant, Shaped Logic.

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