Losing sucks. We all know that. Just ask the Boston Bruins after losing the Stanley Cup Final at home. I’m not a hockey fan, but I know a few, and know how much that will sting. It’s how we react and what we take away from losing that can pave the way for future success. That’s the overall takeaway from Sam Weinman’s Win at Losing: How Our Biggest Setbacks Can Lead to Our Greatest Gains.
Throughout the book, Weinman cites several examples from the sports world: golfer Greg Norman and speed skater Dan Jansen just to name a couple, but the lessons of the book can be applicable to those of who aren’t elite athletes.
As a small, freelance business, I am constantly fighting a battle against losing. When I started in voiceover I signed up a client right away which led me to believe that it would be easy. Spoiler alert: it’s not. Although I still work with that client, it has taken time and effort to develop other client relationships. Along the road I’ve had some losses and have had to learn to roll with it. Another early client was going to work with me on a series of videos, but then went with another talent – and didn’t pay me for the work I did on the first video. In hindsight, I was better off without that client.
My son’s baseball team seemed to encapsulate many of the different approaches to losing described in the Win at Losing. They won a few games early in the season which might have led to some overconfidence as they lost a bunch toward the end. One player gave himself a pass for not trying in the outfield because he wanted to pitch more. Another player calculated the team’s win probability against another team at twenty percent to which indicated that he had already given up.
As much as losing sucks, it can be a positive, instructional force if we can break it down into focusing on the process versus the outcome. The best athletes have a process for training and a routine for playing at the highest level. If you’re doing what needs to be done, then you can better live with losing. When we focus on the end result only we lose sight of the process that got us there. One player on my son’s team pressed so hard in our playoff game that he dropped an easy fly ball and struck out three times swinging at bad pitches because he kept thinking about it being a must-win playoff game.
I wanted to let him know he could just relax, and enjoy himself. That the game is just a game. That he could keep working at the things he knows how to do. But he had already beaten himself in those moments. I can only hope now he learns to put it behind him and emerges a better player.