Winning Is for Losers
If you can't accept losing, you can't win.
—Vince Lombardi, championship football coach
Failure is a pejorative term for not getting what we want when we want it, or for not measuring up to someone else’s standards. It’s common (though not necessary) to feel upset when this happens. Our culture reinforces this notion that “winning” is better than “losing,” and perpetuates the myth that we can somehow have one without the other.
In truth, what you have is an experience and a basket of labels. You cannot win without losing, because one is meaningless without the other. They must come together. Knowing how to lose is a prerequisite to winning, because it is only through the mistakes that you make along the way that you learn how to win. After all, you learned to walk by falling; it was the perpetual falling down that refined your sense of balance into a sustained, upright stride.
Yet you must be faithful to yourself while you're "losing." Rarely do we "win" at something the first time, and we almost never master a skill with our first stroke. Whether it's playing the piano, raising a child, or starting a business, we will make many mistakes before we master the challenge before us. Indeed, failure is the only way we can master the challenge.
So what happens to people who see losing as a part of winning?
1. They Become Smarter
People who can accept losing are able to learn and grow from the experience, and put the lesson to immediate use. With each failure, they become smarter and harder to defeat.
2. They Increase Their Self-Confidence
People who can accept losing increase their self-confidence as they begin to appreciate the subtleties of the challenge and refine their approach. They measure their progress not by where they’re headed, but by how far they’ve come. Their appreciation nurtures self-confidence, which improves their performance, in a positive feedback loop.
3. They Keep Marching Forward
People who can accept losing are free to keep on trying. They don't get strung up in self-criticism or despair. They affirm themselves no matter what the outcome, and see the challenge through to the end. They don't take losing personally; losing is an education, not a reflection. People who accept losing as a resourceful part of winning keep moving forward, stronger and more skilled than they were before.
The Quality of Your Experience is Determined by the Quality of Your Meaning
Ultimately, though, it's not the winning or losing that matters, but the meaning you give to your experiences, because that's all you ever have anyway.
Others may think nothing of achievements that you and I consider amazing. And they might be astonished at accomplishments that we take utterly for granted. The achievement itself has no meaning, there is only the meaning a particular person assigns to it. And as the final days of Jesus Christ demonstrate, it’s the meaning that makes all the difference in the world.
Betrayed at the height of his career by his most beloved disciple, Jesus was arrested, beaten, and crucified between a pair of street thieves atop a dusty hill. That would count as an unmitigated loss in anyone’s book. It would seem that his crucifixion was the end of Christ’s life, his ministry, and his merry little band.
But of course, this "failure" wasn’t the end at all, but the Beginning. For not only did Jesus rise again to life, but his his message of love and salvation spread across the Earth, changing the very face of humanity.
In those first few days following Jesus’ death, his disciples must have felt devastated. And yet they soon learned, as we all know now, the true meaning of Christ's death and resurrection— a message of God’s eternal love that has freed millions of people from lives of shame and despair.
What meaning do you give to “failing”? Do you belittle yourself? Does shame or embarrassment swell up, even beyond your ability to observe and learn? Do you lose faith in yourself, or in God’s divine purpose unfolding perfectly through you?
Or do you remain kind and loving with yourself? Do you appreciate yourself for doing your best? Do you seek to use each experience to your advantage? Do you look forward to trying again, with the benefit of new knowledge? Do you trust in the divine purpose behind all experiences, even apparent failures? Can you teach others the utter illusion of failure, by appearing to die on a cross of unmet expectations, yet rising again at will to show them a joy and faith that is not limited to expectations?
I'll bet you can tell which approach is resourceful, and which one isn't. Clearly, if the meaning you give to your own experience is of a high quality, then the texture and impact of your experience will be of a high quality as well.
You Just Can't Lose, If You Can Lose
Rather than judging your experience by arbitrary labels of “success” and “failure,” why not judge it by the quality of your awareness in the moment? Ask yourself, “How present am I in this moment of divine consciousness?”
Be attentive and curious. Free of expectation, witness the divine purpose that is perfectly unfolding through you in every moment, as Jesus did with his moments. Jesus’ life was not perfect in comfort or circumstances, but we consider him a perfect being because of his unshakeable certainty in his relationship with the Divine. Though he may have doubted himself at times, he never doubted the Source that made and guided Him.
Win, lose, or draw, resolve today to think well of yourself at all times, no matter what your inner critic may tell you. Decide to have complete faith in the divine purpose of your life, even if you don't always know what it is. Know that while your mind loves to gossip and chatter and stir up controversy, the real You is the divine wholeness behind the mind. God’s perfect love and purpose is flowing through you at all times, in all places, whether you grasp it or not, and as an expression of All That Is, there is simply nothing to fear.
You see, if you're not achieving what you want in life, it's probably because you're not failing enough.
But then, winning is not for everybody.
Winning is for losers.
Copyright © Judd Miller.