Everyone wants to win. At sports, relationships, game show trivia, and, yes, of course, agency pitches. Winning is a tenet of strong social, personal, and spiritual cachet. The content surrounding many places I go and much of what I read focuses on winning. There are countless poems, inspirational quotes, images, and movies all created with the theme of winning. Like DJ Khaled’s "All I Do Is Win," a good portion of the music on my evolving playlist is about winning.
Showing up, doing your best, being positive, inspiring others, and serving as a strong team player are all key to winning. But what does it take to recover from a loss? What happens when you give it your all and the chips still don’t fall favorably?
Recently, a very dear friend and industry colleague was the guest speaker in my graduate-level crisis communications class. I think anyone who knows him well would define him as a winner. So it was fascinating to listen as he shared his personal and professional account of one of the biggest failures of his career and life. And not only was it a big fail, it was a public fail. He walked the class through headlines over the course of more than a decade, building up an amazing business that abruptly came crashing down.
At the close of his chat, a student asked why he made the decision to rebrand and rebuild his company after having suffered such a blow. His response was simple: because this is what I’m made of. He went on to tell how, in the midst of ashes, he received an email from someone who ultimately ended up investing in the rebirth of his company. He believed that his ability to do good work and be authentic over the years yielded an ultimate positive outcome.
I would argue that it takes much more to lose than it does to win. Though losing inherently comes with a sense of being on the down side, here are three points to consider:
Losing is a defining moment. If you truly want to know what you’re made of, think about how you react when things aren’t working out as you want or plan. Are you angry? Emotional? Do you give up? Do you make a scene on social media or blame others? Or, like my colleague, do you call upon grace and grit you never knew you had and press forward even amid chaos?
Losing only happens if you’re in the game. All day long people comment on the failures of celebrities, executives, companies, and their next door neighbors. But being the one commenting is lackluster compared to being the one commented on. You have to be courageous enough to take a leap and go for something, which is very different than sitting on the sideline, in the bleachers, or hiding in the locker room. You can’t lose at anything you’re not trying your hand at. Suit up, get in the game, and go for it. Even if it doesn’t work out, you’re less likely to regret the use of your time and resources.
Losing gives way to invaluable lessons. When I think about my most chilling losses, I ironically have to align them with life, business, and personal lessons that set me up for success. It’s an interesting dynamic because without these painful rough patches, there is not much chance I would have been presented with or prepared for amazing and timely opportunities that followed. My failures have been a series of practice sessions that prepared me for my next big game. Depending on how you look at it, losing is a catalyst for winning.
At this stage in my life, my closest friends and business associates have failed at the highest level at some point or many points. I can share countless stories, including my own, of how failure has been a major factor for high performers and achievers.
Never be discouraged by falling flat. The right loss at the right time can be a game changer for your success trajectory. And, as long as there is still time on the clock, it is anybody’s game – especially yours.
Rashada Whitehead is a professor, writer, and the president and chief transformation officer of KGBerry, an organization that helps conscious companies navigate big changes. Connect with her here on Twitter.