Emma is four. My daughter is a bright, outgoing, energetic child, who loves to compete. Like most kids who are competitive, Emma has one major weakness, she’s really bad at losing. As soon as there is even a sign that she may lose a game, Emma will either quit or try to start over. Lately she’s even started to try to cheat in order to avoid the thing she fears most.
Emma’s behavior, of course, is not unique to children. You’ve probably witnessed adults exhibit similar behavior. For many, losing at something is the worst thing they can imagine. These people will lie, cheat, and steal in order to ensure they win. For those to whom winning is of ultimate importance, there are no limits to what they are willing to do to ensure success.
In sports we see athletes who will resort to using performance-enhancing drugs. In business, some investors use insider-trading tips, while a few predatory companies build businesses based on taking advantage of weak or desperate clients to make illegitimate gains. When winning is everything, there is nothing people won’t do. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to lose.
I’m a very competitive person. I love to win like everyone does. But here’s the thing, somewhere along the way, I realized that in order to truly be a winner, in order to appreciate winning, and in order to be able to handle winning with grace, you have to learn how to lose.
Losing teaches us much more about ourselves than winning ever could. It teaches us how to be graceful in defeat. It teaches us to recognize the gifts and talents of others; it teaches us to be enjoy the success of others; and it teaches us humility by showing us that we can never be the best at everything all the time. All of those things, are good.
No one wants to lose, but in some ways, the spoils of victory are far less sweet in the long run, than the lessons learned in defeat. Trophies tarnish and titles are forgotten. Riches are spent, and successors take over corner offices. Winning only lasts so long. But the lessons learned in defeat, the insights gained in loss, are treasures that last a lifetime.
So by all means pursue winning. Give it your best and enjoy it when you come out on top. But when winning isn’t in the cards, or when someone else is just better, accept it and look for the lessons. There will be many. Remember that a true winner is most often revealed in their moments of defeat. Those who are truly respected and admired are those who can handle either outcome with grace.