I have been watching a new documentary on Netflix called Losers. It showcases individuals who were extremely talented, worked hard at their craft for many years and while sustaining some level of success, missed out on winning what would have put them at the peak of their aspirations.
We often focus on winners, but we don’t focus on the journey of losses, often times significant ones, that these individuals experienced along the way. One friend of mine would often say to me that you will get a 1,000 no’s before you get a yes and while the number is extreme, I think this metaphor has some truth no matter what you are trying to accomplish.
So that you can breathe a little knowing success isn’t one straight path, I thought it was important to share 5 Powerful Lessons Losing Can Teach You:
1. It takes time to figure out what you want and you learn it from doing what you don’t like. As you grow up, one of the biggest questions you are asked repeatedly is what you will choose to do with your life. It often is thought of as one of the most difficult decisions you will make.
And you are often made to feel if you do not get this decision correct, your future is doomed. It’s why many spend decades or years in specific careers that really aren’t rewarding to them or give them the fulfillment they need.
It’s also why others become paralyzed with fear when they have to learn something new or make a career change or transition. But the thing is, it’s only in having these collective experiences you learn who you are, the things you thrive in doing, and those things you absolutely don’t want to do.
2. It’s only in failure, that you learn to win. If you look at anyone who has thrived in their particular area of expertise, no matter how successful, they will tell you they were repeatedly rejected.
They often failed many times along the way, and had way more no’s than yeses’. I love biopics, but if you don’t believe what I’m saying, pay close attention when you research someone you admire.
There is no short road to success. If you want further proof, go and look at the biographies of some of those you may admire including Oprah, Lin Manuel Miranda, Deepak Chopra, Ellen, Misty Copeland, and countless others.
It’s not that they didn’t lose. In fact, they lost a lot. But, they kept persisting for years to figure out their journey. They didn’t allow the losses to derail or sidetrack them from moving forward. And even if you don’t make it big time like them, there are countless examples of others who may not have reached the pinnacle of what may be deemed success, but have found ways to make both small and big impacts by learning to use what they enjoy doing to teach, inspire, and motivate others on a lesser scale.
3. Losing gets a bad rep. One thing that separates someone who is successful in the long-term and the short-term is resilience. It’s the ability to fail, take chances, and learn from the failure to use it in your journey towards success. I really like the acronym for FAIL, (“First Attempt in Learning.”)
If you approach losing as learning, you will see that all of your collective experiences were preparation for the thing or things that you needed to do to become good at what you are meant to do. If you quit too soon, you will never reach this realization. Losing is a pathway which leads me to my next important lesson.
4. Your pathway is unique to you. It’s hard to keep this in mind because there are countless distractions telling you what your life should look like, who you should or shouldn’t marry, how many kids you need to be happy, what kind of house, boat, how you need to look, etc. all to fit into some other person’s definition of what your dream life should look like.
And yet, we see time and time again that these things don’t necessarily lead to people being happy, having better relationships or living in their purpose. There is only one person who knows what will make you happy. It’s you.
You are more in sync with your talents, aspirations, etc. than anyone else will be. And being happy is to a large degree about creating experiences in doing things that make you feel fulfilled and purposeful. And that is unique to doing what is important and matters to you.
5. Losing doesn’t have to be a losing proposition. I know that is an oxymoron, but it’s true. Losing, if looked at the right way, can be just the dose you need to know when to let go of something, change your path, or recalibrate.
I am impressed that people are taking a more proactive approach to shape their paths in a way that aligns with their purpose and passion even when it might mean making some sacrifices of those things that they have been told that they should do. I strongly believe it’s the right path.
As I have observed people who have been truly happy, I’ve observed the following repeatedly. They focus on doing those things that feel good to them and which make them feel present, contributory, and purposeful.
Sometimes it may take many years for you to get to a point of doing what serves you well, versus doing what you have been told is practical. And this is ok too. Because it is likely you will learn one of the most important lessons of losing. It is only by having those losses, not being put on a path that you thought you were destined to go, being rejected from something you thought was your opportunity, etc. that you will be able to arrive exactly at where you need to be.
If you are currently lamenting some past failure, constantly looking back at what could have been, because let’s face it, everyone has these type of moments, try to view it from a different perspective.
Pick yourself up from that loss, put your chin up, and keep moving forward. You have survived. You are still here. And realize that there are amazing things in store for you if you are willing to keep steadfast and actively learn along the way.