Although it is important to ensure that we understand the process we followed and, as best we can, why we might have lost, it is also sometimes necessary to understand that we perhaps did not lose as much as we thought we had. In fact, we needed to start reorienting ourselves to focus on what we gained through the engagement.
I get asked, by people across our organization, about what we can do when our engagement does not lead to a win. Some want to know why we engaged, but did not win. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid focusing on the elements that got in our way or to identify situations in which we could have done things differently. In short, it’s hard not to immediately go on the defensive. However, defending a loss is almost never as effective for growth as looking at the lessons you’ve learned from a loss. In fact, losing and losing well is probably the best vehicle for growth, enabling you to win in the future.
Even When You Win, You May Still Lose
I am going to make a bold statement, but one I think will resonate: Winning has never made anyone a better person. Winning certainly helps us see the results of our dedication and hard work, but it rarely provides learning opportunities. Losing, on the other hand, should inspire self-reflection, so we can figure out what we could be doing better. Losing—if we think of it in the right way and internalize the experience productively—should result in a surge in self-improvement.
A couple of years ago, I took up squash. My son had played the sport a little and wanted to play with me. Having never played any sort of racquet sport, the idea was a bit daunting. Being a tall, broad person, I had always played sports that were more suitable for my body type. After watching a few videos of professional squash players, I realized immediately that my body type was not really compatible with playing squash. However, a father’s desire to play with his son overcame my hesitancy, and I decided to take a lesson. In just 45 minutes, I felt crushed. I had never had to move that way. Everything was completely new. I was a complete and utter loser at playing this game. As I drove home, I thought about what I had learned. It turned out that my size gave me a few advantages that I could use against my opponent—if I could just learn how to control the space and the ball. So I kept at it. Two years later, I am a reasonable player, but always looking to improve. What’s more important is that I actually enjoy playing the game quite a bit.