This weekend, the youth soccer team I coach suffered a heart-breaking loss in our league’s championship game. In addition to losing the game in its final moments, to add insult to injury, we did so on an incorrectly called penalty kick!
The loss was emotionally hard on our players, parents, and on me as the coach, as we all played back in our minds and in conversation how things could and should have gone differently and of the unfairness of sports where luck and circumstance often play outsized roles.
And while we all of course prefer winning to losing, losses - especially emotionally impactful ones and ones after we have practiced and played our absolute best and came up a bit short…
…well these kinds losses can be transformative.
Some of the reasons why are cliché, but real nonetheless – we learn that we are way more resilient than we think and that we can get "Off the mat and back into the ring" no matter how hard we have been knocked down.
But the “lesson from losing” that I like best is how it puts a cold and harsh spotlight on those areas where we need to improve if we are to win the next time out.
And boy-oh-boy, does this lesson apply to business or what?
Because in business, the losses always outnumber the wins.
In marketing, no matter the channel, the vast majority of our target audience doesn't respond (For e-mail, a 97% non-response rate is considered excellent).
The best salespeople lose two out of three of the deals they pitch and in some industries losing nine times out of ten is considered world-beating.
And once clients are secured, when the standard is as it should be of making them "raving fans" and "evangelists" of and for us, how often do most businesses win at that?
How about winning financially? How many business grow at a rate and profit to an amount as defined by plan? And sorry folks, if we we’re not doing this, then that’s called losing.
Yes, in business, losing is our constant companion.
Now, the most successful and effective entrepreneurs and executives I know are by no means so talented and brilliant that they just win all the time, as much as they are far better than their competition at learning from their losses.
They only take losing personally when it serves them to do so - to be so peeved by it that they commit to work more energetically and creatively to win the next time.
They “inspect” their losing - critically and analytically parsing it to its smallest detail, and then making the technical corrections to incrementally decrease its likelihood of doing so the next time out.
And they recognize the overriding importance of that next time.
Because businesses, like athletes, are not valued on the basis of their past performances - no matter how glorious they might have been - but on their future prospects.
And so yes, we should hate to lose. And grieve over it when we do.
But we should also laugh at it for what it really is: An irrelevant relic when it comes to pursuing and achieving our future success.
So the next time the breaks of the game and/or of the Board Room don't go your way, shed a tear or two for sure because it is normal and healthy to care.
But only shed a few and do it fast, because the next game, the next opportunity, the next pitch is just waiting for you to step up and hit out of the park.