This week I had the distinct privilege of visiting an alternative high school that serves the neediest and most challenged of students. My conversation with the principal—a man who has given his life to reach and impact disadvantaged youth and help turn their lives around—left me inspired and encouraged. His stories of the ups and downs of working with that student population reminded me of the introduction to “ABC’s Wide World of Sports,” when the narrator would dramatically announce, “…the thrill of VICTORY and the agony of DEFEAT.” Seeing a homeless student from a background of gangs and violence graduate from high school—victory! Seeing another go back to the streets—defeat.
No matter where our life path takes us, each of us experiences both victories and defeats. Whether it’s sports, contests, career, dating, or school, you win some and you lose some. Most of us don’t have too much difficulty with the winning part.
But does the fact that we don’t always win mean we’ve lost? Perhaps, narrowly defined, the answer may be “Yes,” but in most cases the answer is emphatically “No.” Many of our “losses” prepare us for our victories later on—that is, if we choose to learn from our defeats.
Vince Lombardi of Green Bay Packer fame used to say that winning “is the only thing.” Famed UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, on the other hand, used to simply ask his players to play their best, and that was good enough for him.
I’m probably more in John Wooden’s camp (despite growing up 20 miles from Green Bay!). Winning may be an important goal, but I don’t believe we’re losers if we don’t finish in first place. The key is to learn from a defeat and use it as input for the next practice and for future strategy.
Turning a defeat into a victory can be positively transformational. One example that comes to my mind is a program I heard of recently in which teen moms reach out to younger girls and share their stories. With unique authenticity and perspective, they can encourage their younger peers to make wise and strategic life choices. It’s already making a big difference.
Humbly celebrate your victories and see how you can gain from your defeats. It will position you to do better the next time, and it certainly will take some of the sting out of your losses!
How have you handled your victories and losses? Do you view a short-term loss as a learning experience to help achieve greater heights in the future? Are you satisfied with the outcome if you did your best?