The 4 Minutes™ Blog


The Next Best Thing to Winning….Is Losing

Fall is my favorite time of year here in Virginia for lots of reasons…the arrival of cooler temperatures, colorful leafs on the trees and of course football season. One of my fondest fall memories was playing football for Coach Dick Sheridan at undersized Furman University back in the 80’s when we celebrated major upset victories “David vs. Goliath” style over much larger, better equipped school competitors such as University of South Carolina, Georgia Tech and N.C. State. This past weekend when I saw Furman give a scare to #12 ranked Michigan State then University of Richmond decisively beat the bigger University of Virginia on their home turf in Charlottesville and my home town team University of Georgian best UNC, I was reminded of just how exhilarating it is to experience a win if you are playing for the right team. But unfortunately, in business and in life we can’t always be on the winning team. And though winning will always feel better than losing, sometimes that taste of bitter defeat can plant the seed for something positive down the road if you are smart about how you respond after being knocked down. Have you had the experience lately of having an expected win turn into a loss?

Case in point: I just found out my coaching firm didn’t “win” a team coaching engagement after making it to the “final two”. After feeling the high of being close to the goal line only to somehow “fumble”, I felt crushed under a wave of disappointment and “second guessing”. But then I picked myself back up, went back to the sidelines and began the process of learning from the experience so I can better compete next time I’m back on the field. And this meant I had to “practice what I preach” in my coaching engagements as painful as that is because one of my core beliefs is simply this: The next best thing to winning….is losing.

Here are three reasons why:

Must put loss in context: Its been said that “nobody remembers the loser of the Super Bowl”. Just look at NFC Champion Carolina Panthers who in spite of losing the “big one” against the Denver Broncos, had an amazing season- pundits be damned. As much as i could be flogging myself right now for losing a team coaching engagement I competed for, the fact is my firm beat out numerous other firms just to make it to the finals which is a much better result than had I not been in the running at all, right? That gives me a better, more realistic context within which to work and move forward. Are you being too hard on yourself after experiencing a defeat in business or in your life? Are you still on the ground after getting sacked?

Failure is essential to success: Have you gone through a time consuming, arduous screening and interviewing process with a new prospect only to lose the business in the end? I know exactly how that feels. In my firm’s situation, it began by being one of five “pre-screened” recommended coaching firms out of dozens. Then there was the initial interview followed by more follow up interviews. There were references provided and grilled. Then there was the drafting and presenting of a proposal tailored to their needs. And then there was the dreaded “waiting game”. The emotional roller coaster from this process can be brutal even for the most seasoned veteran. Yet we tend to ignore all the valuable feedback we can get from the process. For example, this team was kind enough to share the reasons why my firm was not selected. And as painful as that was to hear, it was absolutely essential to improve my services and how they are packaged and presented. Are you asking for feedback to improve when you don’t get the business? Remember what legendary Coach John Wooden said: “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be”.

Focus on future and take action now: after a loss do you find yourself hosting a “pity party” and making excuses? Can you imagine what would happen if a football coach allowed his team to wallow in self pity after losing the season opener? These are toxic habits that can be the “kiss of death” for anyone choosing to indulge, leading to stagnation and loss of momentum. One of the things we all should do is as quickly as possible is to: assess the takeaways from a losing experience; focus on how we can make immediate improvements ; take immediate action. For a football coach that means adjusting personnel or the playbook or both. On the political front its been interesting to watch how Trump has been slowly creeping back up in the polls after it appeared Hillary was on a clear glide path to win the Whitehouse. It appears Trump’s attempts to change course by hiring new campaign management and “softening” his tone may be paying off. Only time will tell but one thing’s for sure: if he had not changed course its likely his loss would be a fait accompli come November. Now lets see what happens in the debates…..

For me, based on the feedback received, I’ve already determined the specific areas I need to tweak / emphasize in my next presentation. And to make sure this doesn’t get me bogged down, I’m reaching out to several new prospects to re-fill my pipeline not next week but today. Remember that whatever you focus on grows in your experience so its vital to put all your efforts and energy into future efforts rather than spending too much time in the “film room” of life reliving “bad games” over and over somehow hoping to change the past. The rest of your “season” is still ahead. Get back on the field and be ready for the next game!

Coach Bob David

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