As a former pro runner and British Army veteran, I have experienced many losses in life that complement the many victories, but it’s from the losses that I have learned the most valuable lessons. This is why it’s important to reinforce that while losing isn’t what we set out to do, it happens. It’s how we bounce back that shapes us as people.
As a runner and entrepreneur, I’ve had a lot more losses than wins. These losses have motivated me to learn and adapt faster and more effectively than the protected cushion of only winning.
Toward the start of my time as an entrepreneur, I won a major contract with a retailer. I thought I had it made. After several months, I got a call from the company saying they were disappointed with our performance and demanded that we buy back the product we had sold them. I was devastated. But in hindsight, I had rested on my laurels thinking I had won when, in fact, the journey had just begun and I had failed to realize it.
That was a major turning point for me. Now, I could have beaten myself up and let the loss break me, but instead, I used it as a life lesson. I used one of my running techniques to banish the negative feelings by figuratively tossing away the mental anguish like a piece of paper. Then, I picked myself back up with a new learned perspective. I would recommend trying it. When a bad thought enters your mind, accept it and then throw it away, replacing it with a lesson learned or positive forward action.
There is a difference between failure and losing. You can lose without failing. Losing teaches you a lot about what it takes to win. Learn from your failures because these are opportunities for improvement if you come to terms with this lesson.
At one point with SOS, we had less than $4,000 in the bank and $250,000 on our credit cards, yet the orders were coming in. That was no time to panic. My team and I had to stay optimistic, believing that what we were doing would be successful. We worked our way through it, believed in our strategy and kept our eye on the goal, and came out the other side.
An entrepreneur that hasn’t experienced any losses in life may be called successful, but their lack of failures makes them deficient in many categories. A very common movie trope is to have the main character suffer a great loss right before the climax, where they are able to make a comeback and eventually win. Entrepreneurs who are not accustomed to bouncing back from a loss may face catastrophic consequences from their first loss, including significantly lowered perceptions of self-esteem and self-worth.
A person that has never failed nor lost cannot truly succeed. To live in the present, you must acknowledge all experiences, including those which do not result in your desired outcomes or expectations.
Everyone Experiences Losing
Tom Brady has lost Super Bowls, Serena Williams has been defeated in Grand Slam Tournaments, and many U.S. Presidents lost their first primary. As the co-founder of a fast-growing business, I’m a firm believer in the idea of finding value in losses. Everyone, at least once in their life, has likely heard some variation of the words often attributed to Sun Tzu, “Sometimes you need to lose the battle to win the war.”
Persistence is the key lesson here. The ability to keep going is fundamental to running a successful business. Losing is part of life, and I am even instilling this lesson in my kids. The key is what you do with the loss — if you let it beat you then you have failed.
Once you accept your loss, it’s highly important to look at it objectively and identify what you could do better and what you could learn from it. By quantifying what went wrong and making sure you learn from it, everyone can move forward and onward to greater achievements.
As with any lesson in life, everyone requires time to adapt and implement changes. It is no different from the lessons you gain from losing. While it may seem hard to change and do better, taking steps in the right direction can help yourself and the business in the long-term. Even when one change has been successfully implemented and your business is running smoothly, it’s crucial to keep in mind that there can always be another loss coming your way.
The next step is to get rid of the idea that failure or loss will not happen again when you are about to make another important decision. Understanding this point and accepting that we are going to fail more than once in life (because it is inevitable) can be a big part of how we change our mindset. Remember every plan changes. Learn to accept that and adapt to it. Be open to it, embrace it and follow your gut.
In business, we have to learn how to adapt, implement and overcome. On any given day, we are likely to face a decision that could make or break the company. After a while, you learn to realize that you can bounce back from any loss as long as you stay focused on the end goal.