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The Art of Losing: Your Behavior in Defeat Matters

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor

Dealing…sounds less slimy than ‘wheeling and dealing.’ However excellent you might be at closing a deal, there will come a time when one gets away from you.

Maybe you have just run out of trump cards. Losing gracefully is a part of growing up, and as any parent knows, a skill that matters.

No one wants to lose; it doesn’t make us feel warm and fuzzy. It doesn’t release any endorphins or give us our “kicks.” It does, however, teach us many vital lessons.

Some might argue losing is better than winning, or at least more meaningful. So, what exactly can you learn from losing? Is life all about winning?

Losing reminds us that everything worth having requires hard work. It also forces us to evaluate how we did things and identify the areas that need improvement.

Losing keeps us from becoming complacent. Sure, we all want to win, but how you behave when you don’t is essential; otherwise, you miss out on the lessons presented.

You can’t win unless you learn how to lose.” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The value of hard work

Winning because there is no challenge involved, or using things like money and influence, instead of skill and hard work, only boosts the ego. It doesn’t build up your dignity or self-respect.

Ego, according to Arshi Gupta, “can be held responsible for many negative human traits.” Traits that none of us like in our friends or want to see our children emulate.

Things like “criticizing, judging others, acting manipulative, being inflexible and rigid, having severe mood swings, possessing a constant need for praise and approval.

Other traits like the “need to feel superior to everyone around, feeling fearful, anxious, being uncooperative, taking things too seriously, taking offense easily, or constantly worrying over little things” can also be blamed on too much ego, feeling resentful towards others, the inability to live in the present moments, feelings of hopelessness and despair, and the need for power and control over others.”

The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” – Vince Lombardi

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Hard work builds up fundamental skills. It leaves us with a sense of dignity, regardless of the outcome. If you know you put in the work and did everything you could, then there is dignity to be found in the loss.

The sense of pride we feel in the effort we put forth provides us with an opportunity to see ourselves in a different light. Instead of ‘winners or losers,’ we become students of our potential.

Sometimes it is better to lose and do the right thing than to win and do the wrong thing.” – Tony Blair

Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses

In business, we use a tool called a SWOT analysis. This is a way for companies to look at their:

  • Strengths
  • Weakness
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

It helps them make and assess decisions and best practices. Losing affords people the same chance to assess these same areas.

What was your strongest trait that you brought to the table? Can you more of that the next time the same situation presents itself? What was something that caused you to struggle? How can you improve that before the next time you face a similar problem?

It is a simple fact of life that you will once again find yourself in a situation where the lessons from a certain loss might help you win. Learning what those opportunities are is what separates the winners from the losers, not the outcome of singular events. Identifying threats can make you more prepared and better able to foresee obstacles.

You might win some; you might lose some. But you go in; you challenge yourself; you become a better man, a better individual, a better fighter.” – Conor McGregor

Losing keeps us from becoming complacent

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” – Bill Gates

When we lose, it stings the ego a bit, but if you channel it correctly, that loss can motivate you to do better. We do better by improving existing skills or learning new ones.

According to Albin Morgan, “Learning keeps your mind engaged and body active. It helps you get new and knowledge-based perspectives on the world around you. It helps you gain new experiences, trains your brain to handle a wide range of challenges, and keeps your neural pathways active.”

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Not only is it exciting to learn a new skill, but you never know what path your recently discovered talent can lead you down. It might even help switch careers or find a passion that lay dormant.

Life is a long adventure in learning, and if losing prompts you to seek knowledge, then it is worth much more than a win in the same old thing.

How you act when you lose says much more about you than the fact that you lost

The only genuine problem with losing is when you act like a sore loser. I have been teaching my children to lose with grace since they were toddlers. I didn’t support tantrums, cries of cheating, or quitting because they were not winning.

I told them things like, “You don’t always win; sometimes you play to learn the game.” Or my personal favorite, “Act like that again, and I won’t play with you anymore.” It frustrates me when grown egomaniacs act like children.

When you win, say nothing. When you lose, say less.” – Paul Brown

So, what does it mean to be a sore loser? Joel Lee offers these five signs to help you determine if you could afford to lose with a little more aplomb:

1.) Do you shut down emotionally? Let’s say you didn’t get a promotion at work, and instead, it went to someone else. A reasonable adult would continue to do their actual job. Someone who has shut down would lose all interest in the critical matters and instead waste time on frivolous activities.

2.) Do you discredit the winner? If you have to drag someone down to make yourself feel better, then you might want to take a long look in the mirror and figure out why. Sometimes, people play better than you. Sometimes, they are smarter and more qualified. Other times, they are just better than you, and that is ok to acknowledge. Learn to want to be better than you were yesterday and not placing your worth on being better than someone else.

3.) Are you clinging to a sour attitude when you lose? Please don’t pout or hunker down and sulk. It isn’t becoming when small children do this, and it is down-right ridiculous when adults behave this way.

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4.) Always blame others when you lose? It isn’t because you had a bad coach. It is not because someone was out to get you. You lost for a reason. Do the work and figure out why, and come back better than before. Learn something about yourself, and you will be a winner in the end. Hold yourself responsible, and the growth that will happen will be the best victory you could imagine.

5.) Are you known for ‘Rage Quitting?’ If you are a gamer like me, then you recognize this term. It’s that guy that leaves the raid after a few tries because your party hasn’t beaten that boss yet. You might start saying things like, “I hate this game and it is impossible to win!” Here is a secret…it is not impossible. Your party needs to figure out what is going wrong and work as a team to fix it. You will get there if you do the work.

Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.” – Wilma Rudolph

Losing doesn’t mean you are terrible

The bottom line here is this: losing doesn’t mean you are terrible. It doesn’t mean you failed. It means you get a chance to grow and improve. It means that you might have met someone you can look up to and learn from.

Many good things can come from losing if you are open to the experience and embrace it. We all like to win, sure, but sometimes we don’t. Choose how you are going to act and the example you will set for those around you. You never know who is watching and whose skill set you are shaping.

What lessons have you learned from losing? Share a time when a loss turned out to be an opportunity in the comment section below.

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