I’m competitive. I hate to lose at anything.  I have a brother who is 18 months older than I so I learned early in life that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. We’ve all said it, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”  The truth is, everyone loses at some point or another. The best of the best athletes experience loss. The people who are at the top of the best organizations experience downturns. The question is, what do you do when you lose? Do you just shrug your shoulders, hang your head, accept it and move on? Or, are there other options?

WinLoseOne of my mentors from afar is John Maxwell. From the first time I heard him speak in 1986, through listening to tapes or CD’s and reading many of his books over the last decades, I’ve learned a bunch about leadership and life. I love the title of his newly released book, Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn. Learning is the best option when you just can’t put another mark in the “win” column.

Inventor Thomas Edison is known for his statement, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Everyone falls short of their goals at times. Everyone makes mistakes. The people who succeed are the ones who pick themselves up, dust themselves off, figure out what went wrong and give it another try with new knowledge and understanding.

ThumbsUpDownInterestingly, J.K. Rowling had twelve publishers reject her Harry Potter manuscript before someone agreed to give it a try.  Colonel Sanders was 65 years old when he poured his meager $105 Social Security check into his gas tank to drive around in a white suit, knocking on doors trying to sell his fried chicken recipe. He was told “no” 1,009 times before the first “yes.’ Walt Disney was turned down for Disney World financing 302 times before someone finally said “yes.” Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime—and that was to a friend. Despite that he kept painting and finished over 800 pieces. There is no success without failure.

Here are three words that have helped me turn losses into wins:

REFRAME—Try to look at your situation from different angles. Ask God, family, friends or mentors to give you honest feedback. With humility, receive the suggestions and counsel of others. Use the information to get a better picture of what happened and why. Never waste a failure. You can always learn something.

REVISE—Be willing to step back and detach yourself a bit from the emotion of the loss and pretend you’re looking at someone else’s situation and think about what you might suggest to them.  Be open to new ideas that are offered when you ask for feedback and then form a new plan of action.

REFOCUS—Instead of continually second-guessing yourself and inviting everyone to a huge pity party to celebrate your disappointment and failure, refocus on a new plan and how you want to proceed. Next to asking for God’s grace to fill your heart and mind and cleanse you from a sense of failure and doubt, the most crucial thing you can do to overcome disappointment is to embrace a new path and focus on what’s ahead.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. The hinge is all about your response to failure. Learning is always your best option when you’ve encountered a loss. And then, losing always leads to winning.


QUESTION: What would you add? I would love to hear how you turn losses into wins!


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