I love winning. It’s one of the best feelings. There is something deeply satisfying in competing and exacting victory. In fact, winning causes a physiological effect by producing testosterone and higher amounts of dopamine. In short, winning makes us feel really happy.
So it may seem counterintuitive to say this but losing may be good for you, at least every now and then. As my career has progressed, my greatest lessons have not been in the wins but in the losses. A loss or setback has made me pause and think not only about why I lost but further, what I need to do to win next time.
Here are a few reasons why a losing might be good for you:
1. Adversity makes us stronger.
Absent challenges, sailing through life with zero obstacles doesn’t provide the needed armor to withstand the anguish of loss. We will all face setbacks but with each loss and subsequent comeback, there’s the opportunity to enable a growth mindset by optimizing, improving and becoming better equipped to succeed.
2. Losing is humbling.
There’s nothing wrong with humility. In fact, losing brings some of us closer to empathy and understanding what loss means not only for ourselves but what it might mean for others.
I once delivered a big presentation to a senior executive, only to have it fall flat. I thought that the win was inevitable but in that loss, it taught me I was too overconfident. Going forward, I prepared differently and more comprehensively to ensure I had a humility in my approach from the information shared and how it was organized to my tone and tenor.
3. A loss should prompt reflection.
If all you do is win, you may never take the time to optimize and fix the weaker areas the loss uncovered. When I lose, I immediately look within and ask myself what did I do to contribute to my loss and create process improvements to shore up those weaknesses.
Winning teaches you very little as there’s a tendency in victory to celebrate and move on with little effort made to understand why the win occurred and what needs to be done to win again.
For example, I once interviewed a person for a role and she remarked that after any given project, she would without prompting proactively perform a post mortem to see how the project could be improved. I appreciated her process, the proactive diligence and that she was seeking lessons to win.
4. Winning can breed complacency.
When you win on a regular basis, you can fall into complacency where its difficult to sustain the same energy needed to continually dominate. The threat of losing can help you intensify your drive to keep you humble, hungry and motivated.
5. Losing is a form of feedback.
Losing might be the most objective and purest feedback. For instance, when I was consulting, we made a great pitch but were ultimately bested by a competing firm. We asked why and were given feedback as to what the opposing firm had done differently. The loss was instructive and we learned what the client would have liked to see, allowing us to make adjustments to improve our odds in the future. Feedback is a gift and it’s up to you how to use it.
6. Losing encourages expansion of your circle of influence.
There’s extensive data that says diverse teams outperform heterogeneous teams. Sometimes leaders have the wrong team make up and need to mix up the roster to get the right knowledge on the team. Losses can naturally usher in diverse view points to help us see what we don’t see or know. We see it in sports all the time when they assemble a roster capable of winning a championship and it’s no different in corporate spaces– project and product teams require diversification to get to deeper creativity for complex problem solving or developing new product ideas.
Loses are not loses at all, they are in fact lessons in growth, but only when you are reflective enough to see them.