By Derick Turner
Like many I watch the Super Bowl every year. It has always been an enjoyable time for me watching the pinnacle of a tough fought season. It’s hard not to have great respect for the accomplishments of both teams.
A few years ago there was an epic game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. The game was full of incredible lessons from both sides of the field.
Early in the game the momentum was squarely with the Falcons, but as the game evolved I sat in awe watching that momentum shift until it rested entirely with the eventual winners, the Patriots.
Somehow, inexplicably, the Falcons allowed the victory to slip through their fingers and into the hands of New England who simply never stopped grasping for it.
While most people reflect on the amazing win by New England, I was more intrigued at the loss suffered by Atlanta.
I’ve been involved with competition most of my life.
I grew up with three brothers so there was always competition in our home.
I spent years playing baseball, football, and wrestling where competition was standard.
In my adult life I still try to play sports such as basketball and golf as often as possible, where I am competing to be the successful victor.
Needless to say, competition has always been significant to me.
That in turn means losing has been a significant part of my life as well.
In fact, I would say that losing has become perhaps one of my most valuable tools.
We don’t tend to think of it that way, but if you are ever involved with competition, you are involved with losing.
In fact, if you living life, you are going to be involved with losing.
The Reality of Losing
Losing is never an easy thing. Nobody sets out to lose.
When we engage in any worthwhile venture, we all begin with imagining ourselves winning. That is what makes the challenge and work seem worth it.
Of course that is how it should be. We should be thinking about, planning for, and believing in ourselves winning.
Having the mindset of accomplishment and achieving our goals is imperative for eventual success.
The stark reality, however, is that where there is a winner, there is also going to be a loser.
You thought you were going to win that account, right?
You really hoped you’d win that promotion.
You believed you could win your round of golf, or your last fantasy football game.
No matter the situation, you are competing against something or someone for that theoretical “first place” finish.
What then of the person who does not finish in first. Are they a loser?
If you buy into the so called axiom that “second place is the first loser” then certainly someone has lost.
Perhaps this time it was you.
The truth is that we are figuratively “losing” all the time.
It may not be in front of millions on Super Bowl Sunday, but we lose every day.
Whether it be our tempers, our patience, our positions, of so many other things, we lose more than we probably realize.
If we are in actuality losing so often, is losing really a bad thing then?
Losing to Win
I once wrote about the concept of failing towards success. I presented several examples of people who had failed countless times, yet who we still would all consider to be winners.
I proposed that it was their failures that led them to their success and associated recognition.
I would continue that lesson here.
It is my belief that losing is not only necessary, but it is imperative for true winning and real success.
Without losing, we would never know the pain, the disappointment, and the significance of failing.
Without losing, victory would be hollow, because we would never understand the brevity of the accomplishment.
I would go so far as to suggest that without having experienced losing, we can never be a true winner.
Winning is about savoring hard fought accomplishment. It is the work which went into the success that makes it so sweet.
The effort may have been immediately preceding the victory, as in a competition, or it may have come years earlier as you toiled through your education, your work, and your layers of failures and losses to learn and better yourself.
No true victory comes without work, and that means you’ve stepped over numerous failures along the way.
Any company that has fought through piles of paperwork and presentations to win an RFP knows the extreme amounts of work that the victory required.
Any sales person who has finally won over a decision maker and closed a sale, or opened a new account, understands the significance that each visit, phone call, and email held.
Every promotion, new job, major purchase and successful courtship you’ve had was built upon a foundation of lost opportunities and failures which prepared you for your ultimate victory.
I’ll ask again, is losing really such a bad thing then?
Better Luck Next Time
Certainly Atlanta would rather have won the Super Bowl. They worked hard that season, had the highest scoring offense, and their roster included some of the most exciting players to grace the field those many moths.
Evidently that wasn’t enough though.
Why then did New England win?
I am not a Patriots fan, but even I cannot fail to recognize their incredible record of success.
Why have they been so successful? I would propose that it is in large part because of their losses.
New England had a record of 126 – 34 over the previous 10 years. That’s 126 wins to 34 losses. Incredible by anyone’s standards.
They had missed the playoffs only one time in that stretch.
They clearly do not like losing. That’s because they know what losing feels like.
Prior to the 2000 season, New England had winning seasons (.500 record or better) only 23 of 40 times. Since 2000, 16 of 17 times.
Tom Brady was once quoted as saying “You never get over losses. I’ve never gotten over one loss I’ve had in my career. They always stick with me.”
That, in my opinion, is why New England won.
That is also why I believe Atlanta lost.
Atlanta had only been to one other Super Bowl prior to that season. In fact, making it to the world championship that year was, to many, a fortunate accident.
Atlanta simply did not have enough experience with Super Bowls.
Their only other appearance had been in 1998, nearly two decades earlier, when they lost to the Denver Broncos. Nobody from that team was part of the current iteration.
As a franchise, they did not fully understand the sting of losing the finale after accomplishing so much to get there.
A loss to Atlanta didn’t seem to have the same potential to hurt them as it did for Tom Brady and New England.
New England had developed a close understanding with losing. They choose not to be comfortable with it, but only because they also are more familiar with it.
New England has been to 11 Super Bowls. They have only won the game 6 times. An incredible record, no doubt, but we can’t overlook their 5 losses.
It was New England’s experiences with loss, but more importantly their overall relationship with losing, that pushed them through the insurmountable odds to victory against Atlanta in Super Bowl LI .
New England had learned to hate the feeling of losing, because they knew how much it hurts.
For Atlanta to win, for you to win, it requires learning to hate the hurt and fear of failure more than the work it requires to avoid it.
To do that, you need to learn to accept that failure is part of trying, and also accept that you will sometimes lose.
Embrace the pain of losing, but don’t get comfortable with it.
Only Losers Can Win
In the end, losing will not only play a part in your story, but it may very well be the reason you succeed.
Lose enough promotions, you will figure out how to gain the experience and requirements to win.
Lose enough sales, and you will eventually learn how to differentiate yourself and be better than your competitors.
Lose enough rounds of golf, and you may have to buy a whole new set of clubs after breaking yours, but you will probably see that score get lower and lower.
Losing is part of life, but it has to be the part you learn from, then build from.
Learn to hate losing, but only because you understand it so well.
Eventually, you can be the winner everyone is cheering and calling the greatest of all time.
Question: Have you ever learned from a loss? Leave a comment below.