March 22, 2021

Lessons Learned from Losing

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Losing is tough. Whether you are 8, 58, or 80 years old, it’s tough! However, learning and growing from losses is critical to life beyond them. Having experienced the losses of many loved ones, close ballgames, a job, clients, a police officer by fire when serving as a police chaplain, burying too many infants/teens, and much more, losing has become a harsh reminder of the value of life and relationships.

As I near six decades of breath I look back on so many losses and I’m gleaning what I missed or didn’t take away from them. An Army Colonel dying way too young, a star teenage athlete asleep at the wheel, and a stillborn infant among many still try to haunt my history of losses. Some losses stay with us more than others and that’s ok if we are still growing from them. But if we hold onto them we can be brewing a deep vat of bitterness. Unresolved, unprocessed, losses can overwhelm and paralyze us if we allow them to do so.

Americans do not like to lose! We have this innate sense of winning whether it is connected to a business, sports, academics, relationships, marriage, war, or any reasonable competition like chess or checkers. We champion the “little guy” like David v.s. Goliath winning despite insurmountable odds.

Our DNA is wired for the “wins” in life. We recollect the U.S.A Olympic hockey team of the ’80s and the formidable spirit that refused to lose and won the gold medal despite the odds against them. That team refused to lose and resolved to do whatever it takes to win.

Yet, there have been so many losses in our days or history. Lynchings, Pearl Harbor, Selma, Vietnam, Oklahoma City, countless school gun massacres, 911, and the invasion, and most recently the siege on the Capitol. At times we seem to be on our way to absorbing and moving beyond critical losses and then a helicopter crashes carrying a beloved NBA player and his daughter, or a jet crashes with a PGA winner onboard with no reasonable explanation. Loss is part of living. It’s not fun, it’s not pretty and it affects us in a variety of ways.

Losing a sale, client, deal, or ballgame leaves a bad taste in your mouth and sends your heart south. Not to mention losing a marriage, child, or loved one.

Losing is not fun! No one wants to lose. However, much can be learned from our losses in business, life, and the field of competition. But it doesn’t have to define you, or your company and family. Learning from and rising above the losses breeds champions who refuse to give in to the loss mentality.

We can learn and grow from our losses in life, business, and the field of competition. If we surrender we yield to a root of bitterness that rules the soul. Those who choose to rise above the losses in life and business have learned how to grow from significant losses and rise above them. Are they still there? Yes! However, learning and growing from these losses enables us to move forward and take another step ahead instead of taking two backward.

Choosing to face a loss and learn can be a painful, but rewarding journey. How we climb out is really important. Stop blaming yourself and others for the loss. Acknowledge the victory of the opposition and learn what you can from their/its effort. Assess and analyze your gameplan. Don’t let the taste of loss leave your mouth, but let it serve as motivation to guide you in future endeavors.

Ask yourself and your team hard questions about the loss. Look deep within and acknowledge what needs to change in future challenges. What did you do right? What could you improve upon or have done differently? Would it have honestly made a difference in the outcome? Losing is painful, but it can be a catapult to future victories. And when you eventually win be humble about it, be grateful for it, and don’t take it for granted.

Years ago a department director in a large, non-profit state agency advised me to keep a “smile/victory” file. It was a file of emails, letters, and notes of encouragement for past victories. Unsolicited compliments and thank you’s for a job well done. He encouraged me to return to that file on “losing days,” and revisit past victories. To remind me that there are victories out there I’ve yet to achieve or realize. For 30+ years I’ve kept that file as a reminder of all the good things I’ve been privileged to be part of. Where is your “smile file”? Do you remember and celebrate the big wins despite recent losses? Or, are you drowning and having a pity party over the most recent ones? Don’t let the losses define you, or pin your down with bitterness. Learn and grow from them, but move on. Victory is right around the corner!

Monty Carter, Storyteller
WebSpeak Media
Greer, SC 29651


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