You Have to Lose So You Can Win
"Don't let a win get to your head, or a loss to your heart." - Public Enemy
The statistics don't lie:
Reggie Jackson holds the career record for most strikeouts, yet he is dubbed "Mr. October" and is synonymous with winning when it counts. Pete Rose has gotten out the most of any hitter, yet he holds the all-time hitting record. Cy Young lost the most games of any pitcher, yet he has also won the most and the pitching award for excellence each season is given in his name. And Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe Bryant are in the top 10 of most missed basketball shots in NBA history, yet they are three of the greatest of all time.
There is seldom anything fun in the moment about losing, specifically when you watch others experience success and be praised. When we lose, it's nearly impossible to see the silver linings of that loss in the moment. But get some distance from your loss, take the knowledge forward, and you can utilize this most valuable of on-the-job training to parlay your newfound experiences into future wins.
Some of my most illuminating career learnings have either been in hindsight or with a fresh perspective based on a situation not panning out as I had hoped.
In a sales and leadership career, losses can come in the form of something as commonplace as getting poor or zero reception from a prospect, being rejected, losing to a competitor or completely flubbing the deal (or the process leading up to it). These losses sting, but they inform better future decisions.
If you know your prospects typically ignore the overtures you are making, tweak them and personalize them. Find new ways to reach out. Reach out to 30 people in an organization to get that 1 meeting, rather than just targeting 1 or 2 people. If you know they think you only show up when it's renewal time or they hate vendors or they are already paying your company a pretty penny and seeing no value, use that to your advantage when you approach new prospects. Head off the objections before they happen. Use the reasons you lost as the fuel for your better, evolving approach.
I've seen long sales cycles versus competition where we lost the deal, and hindsight was everything. The ability to look at where I could have involved different people on the deal, the places where I could have asked for advice from peers who had done similar deals - this was power that stemmed from a loss. I've had times when I lost to competitors because I didn't bring the thunder or didn't even know the resources at my disposal; yes, knowledge is power and you may be presenting a superior outcome, but if you do not know how to successfully navigate the waters you're dead in the water. Subsequent deals benefit from your learning; you know the milestones you have to hit, the timing required to make the steps that need to be made, the people you need involved in the deal, the questions to ask the customer about who needs to be involved and when (their leadership, their Legal, their Board), and you can masterfully plot out the timeline. It's one thing to have the process and the resources outlined somewhere on an intranet; it's something else to learn in the thick of it by doing and learning and acting and pivoting.
There are many other losses that can befall us; some fair, some unjust. We lose relationships, we lose possessions, we can lose our job or our way. From each of these, we take something forward that gives us discipline or new perspective.
Dear relationships or loved ones I've lost - I look at the world differently, thankful for every moment and day I have and truly living in the moment rather than worrying about things that may never come to fruition or that I cannot control.
Loss of possessions, especially when you have relationships that do matter, can absolutely be painful but these often cause us to get even closer to the people that truly matter.
Loss of facilities is inevitable - some of us are born unable to do certain things, circumstances cause a loss of ability to do things the same way, or as we age we are no longer able to do the things we loved. Each of these circumstances can be cause for grief, but they also present the opportunity to look at things or do things differently or do different things. We may even discover another talent or aptitude we would have not known about otherwise.
Our careers are also very near and dear to us, as we often spend more time working than we do with anyone else or partaking in any other activity. Some of us are fortunate to be able to throw our talents and energy into our careers, and transform our jobs thanks to our unique gifts. Others are just working as hard as possible to stay financially afloat. No matter your lot in life, your career is important as it can provide an identity, an outlet, even a path to important relationships. If this is placed in jeopardy, there are many implications and affects on other areas of your life.
I've lost jobs before through no fault of my own and in those moments, I was upset and consumed with doubts. However, looking back, I can trace everything that happened and has happened since to a place in my life and career I'm happy with. Sometimes we don't need to know exactly where we're going, we just have to have faith that if we take the proper steps forward, take the knowledge we have gleaned along the way with us, and continue evolving, controlling what we can and not letting the losses sit with us too long, we can summit any mountain and experience a well-deserved win.