Losing Hurts

Winning is easy.  You feel good. You get respect.  It’s great.  Losing, not so much.

Life is about lessons.  Sometimes winning is too easy and people learn the wrong lesson.  We deserve success fails.

Sometimes losing is internalized and again the wrong lesson problem shows up.  No one is a loser.

What is the differential?


Florida State University quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston spoke about his team’s unexpected loss to Oregon State in the Rose Bowl.  “It could have gone either way.  We gave them the ball a couple of times when it mattered.”  He must have been watching a different game than I.  “Either way” seems wrong.  It ended 59-20.  And I don’t know where he got the idea that FSU gave the ball away.  In the game I saw, the Oregon defence took it from them a couple of times.

Spin is the enemy of objectivity and the precursor of delusional behaviour.

If you must pay the emotional price of losing, please learn the lesson.  Take away something you can use to your future advantage.  Maybe something as simple as congratulating your opponent; something Winston did and to his credit.  Given Florida State’s record over the past three years, that is something with which he has little experience.

It is okay to say, today we stunk.  We were unprepared, or we were over confident, or we lost our focus when adversity came our way.  You can be better as the result of those thoughts.  Spin says we are the best and we need learn nothing.  Blaming others accomplishes the same thing.

The problem begins with the teams children join. I lay most of it on parents.  It’s a game but there are important things to learn. Let the children learn them. Better lessons on dealing with disappointment when they are inexpensive.

I have heard a former coach say that the only way he will coach again is if it is for a team from an orphanage.  I know of at least one capable player who did not play for him because, “I didn’t cut him; I cut his mother.”

In my experience, children can learn from losing, but parents sometimes want to shield them from the hurt.  Children are tough.  They are accustomed to learning.  They do not have fragile egos.  They just need the tools to get past the emotional part and take the lesson forward.  The ones that do that succeed in life.

If children learn to accept participation ribbons or trophies as signs of success, we can give up on them.  They will never develop the skill that lets them take the hurt of losing and turn it to a better future performance.  They will come to feel entitled.  They get a prize just for showing up.

Losing and learning are necessary.  Losing hurts.  Get over it.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. Contact: don@moneyfyi.com 

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