Growing up in the era where business was considered a zero-sum game – meaning, I win at your expense or you win at my expense – competition was fostered. Prized.
You wanted to dominate and ruin the competition. The object, which never happened in my experience, was to have the market all to yourself.
In time we learned the market was too big for that. But when you grow up reading about US Steel and the cut-throat tactics of the winning industrialists and those are the business heroes of the day…it’s not surprising that fierce competition is considered the way to go.
I hated losing and most business people I know hate to lose. It doesn’t always look the same. Age, experience, background, culture…there are lots of individual nuances to it.
Losing was once not considered something to be proud of…like today. Not long ago I was introduced to somebody – under 40. The spiel included 3 failed companies where he had successfully raised millions of dollars. I understand today’s context, but instantly I thought back to my beginnings of business leadership back in the early 80’s and thought, “My, how far we’ve come!”
Such an introduction would have been considered shameful and embarrassing, but not today. Don’t misunderstand. I’m glad we’ve moved away from the foolishness of the zero-sum game. I’m sad that it fostered the everybody gets a trophy era, but this too may pass. Fact is, everybody doesn’t win. Not in business. Not in life. And the truth is, there are lots of reasons for it. I’m not so naive or narrow-minded to believe it all rests solely on human endeavor. Truth is, you need some good fortune and timing along the way.
But what of losing and playing.
We all lose. Sometimes. Professional coaches will often say to the press that there’s nothing to be learned in losing. I disagree. Adversity and losses teach us quite a lot if we’re open to learn, understand and grow. Not everybody is and that’s an individual choice we can each make. We get it wrong before we figure out how to get it right. The adversity of the losses separate the quitters from the learners. It separates the players from the spectators.
Do you hate to lose? Lean into that. Not in some childish fit pitching if you lose, but in a way where it so scalds you that you determine to figure out some things so you don’t lose again. At least not at that. Or in that way.
It’s the value of dissection.
Dissect what happened. Relive it. Pour over the details of it. Why didn’t it work? Why did it fail?
But here’s the real key — couch it in the proper time frame of TEMPORARY.
This is where winners get it more right than the rest. The winners who lose – and they all do – do not assume it’s a permanent state or condition. They instantly are able to see it for what they believe it to be, temporary.
Why? Why are they able to do this?
Largely because the winners have optimism about themselves and their circumstances. They realize that the permanence of this failure is completely unnecessary. Unless they quit. And they don’t want to quit.
They want to play the game of business.
Losing is dreadful. It feels awful. But not playing? That feels worse. Having to go to the sidelines is the shameful walk winners don’t want to make. Fact is, they refuse to make that walk.
When I’m introduced to Mr. Failed-Three-Times the losses were indeed celebrated in his introduction (and I hate that because I see all the people who lost money betting on this guy and he’s proud of it; I’m old school and that just seems wrong to me that people have no shame in losing the faith and money invested in them)…but he’s still in the game.
For small business owners, on an everyday level, we have battles and firefights that erupt. Some days you eat the bear. Some days the bear eats you. But the real test is how badly do you want to stay in the game?
As long as you’re staying in the game then you’ve got time to figure it out. Time to dissect those losses to see where you may have gone wrong. Time to more clearly see opportunities you couldn’t see yesterday.
Time to consider the losses just as temporary as the wins. Time to consider how much you love – assuming you do – playing the game. Enjoy the game. Make sure others on your team are enjoying their part of the game, too. We do best when we’re having a good time.
So have a good time.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!