Like many I watched the Super Bowl this past weekend. It’s always been an enjoyable time for my family, watching the pinnacle of a tough fought season. It’s hard to not have great respect for the accomplishment.
As the game evolved, I sat in awe watching the momentum shifting, as Atlanta failed to maintain their strong start. Somehow, they allowed the victory to slip through their fingers and into the hands of New England who simply never stopped grasping for it.
While most people reflect on the amazing win by New England, I was more intrigued at the loss suffered by Atlanta.
I’ve been involved with competition most of my life. I grew up with three brothers so there was always competition in our home. I spent years playing baseball, football, and wrestling where competition was standard. In my adult life I still try to play basketball and golf as often as possible, competing against friends or against myself for a lower score.
Needless to say, competition has been significant to me. That means losing has been a significant part of my life also.
We don’t really think of it that way, but if you are ever involved with competition, you are involved with losing. In fact, if you are involved with life, you are going to be involved with losing.
The Reality of Losing
Losing is never an easy thing. Nobody sets out to lose. We all imagine ourselves winning whenever we set out to do anything.
Obviously we should be thinking about, planning for, and believing in ourselves winning. The stark reality however is that where there is a winner, there is generally also going to be a loser.
You thought you were going to win that account, right? You really hoped you’d win that promotion. You believed you could win your round of golf, or your last fantasy football game.
No matter the situation, you are most likely competing against something or someone for that theoretical “first place” finish.
What then of the person who does not finish in first. Are they a loser?
If you buy into the so called axiom that “second place is the first loser” then certainly someone has lost. Perhaps this time it was you.
The truth is that we are figuratively “losing” all the time.
It may not be in front of millions on Super Bowl Sunday, but we lose every day. Whether it be our tempers, our patience, our positions, of so many other things, we lose more than we ever realize.
Is losing really a bad thing then?
Losing to Win
I recently wrote about failing towards success. I presented several examples of people who had failed countless times, yet who we still would all consider winners.
I would further that lesson here. It is my belief that losing is not only necessary, but it is imperative for true winning and real success.
Without losing, we would never know the pain, the disappointment, and the significance of failing. Without losing, victory would be hollow, because we would never understand the brevity of the accomplishment.
I would go so far as to suggest that without having experienced losing, we can never be a true winner.
Winning is about savoring hard fought accomplishment. The effort may have been immediately preceding the victory, as in a competition, or it may have come years earlier as you toiled through your education, your work, and your layers of failures and losses to learn and better yourself.
No true victory comes without work.
Any company that has fought through piles of paperwork and numerous presentations to win an RFP knows the extreme amounts of work that the victory required.
Any sales person who has finally won over a decision maker and closed a sale, or opened a new account, understands the significance that each visit, phone call, and email held.
Every promotion, new job, major purchase and successful courtship was built upon a foundation of lost opportunities and failures.
I’ll ask again, is losing really such a bad thing then?
Better Luck Next Time
Certainly Atlanta would rather have won the Super Bowl. They worked hard this season, had the highest scoring offense, and their roster included some of the most exciting players to watch. Evidently that wasn’t enough.
Why then did New England win?
I am not a Patriots fan, but even I cannot fail to recognize their incredible record of success.
Why are they so successful? I would propose that it is because of their losses.
New England has a record of 126 – 34 over the past 10 years. That’s 126 wins to 34 losses.
They have missed the playoffs only one time in that stretch.
They clearly do not like losing. That’s because they know what losing feels like.
Tom Brady was once quoted as saying “You never get over losses. I’ve never gotten over one loss I’ve had in my career. They always stick with me.”
That, in my opinion, is why New England won.
That is also why I believe Atlanta lost.
Atlanta had been to only one other Super Bowl. Making it this year was to many a fortunate accident. They simply do not have enough successful experience with the Super Bowl. To that point, they also haven’t learned enough from losing.
A loss to Atlanta didn’t seem to have the same potential to hurt them as it did for Tom Brady and New England. New England has developed a close understanding with losing. They choose not to be comfortable with it, but only because they also know it.
Prior to the 2000 season, New England had winning seasons (.500 record or better) only 23 of 40 times. Since 2000, 16 of 17 times.
It was New England’s experiences with loss, but more importantly their overall relationship with losing, that pushed them through the insurmountable odds to victory.
They have learned to hate the feeling of losing, because they know how much it hurts.
For Atlanta to win, for you to win, it requires learning to hate the hurt and fear of failure more than you fear the work it requires to avoid it.
To do that, you need to learn to accept that failure is part of trying, and also accept that you will sometimes lose. Just don’t get comfortable with it.
Only Losers Can Win
In the end, losing will not only play a part in your story, but it may very well be the reason you succeed.
Lose enough promotions, you will figure out how to gain the experience and requirements to win. Lose enough sales, and you will eventually learn how to differentiate yourself and be better than your competitors.
Lose enough rounds of golf, and you may have to buy a whole new set of clubs after breaking yours, but you will probably see that score get lower and lower.
Losing is part of life, but it has to be the part you learn from, then build from. Hate losing, but only because you understand it so well. Eventually, you can be the winner everyone is cheering and calling the greatest of all time.
Question: Have you ever learned from a loss? Leave a comment below.