02 December 2006

Winning and Losing - December 2007.

Winning and losing,
and then preparing to win again
develops a mindset that is key,
not only to succeed in life,
but also to enjoying life.

There will always be periods of winning, periods of losing, periods of incapacity, but through all of these times we have to have the courage to view failure, or a loss, as a regrouping opportunity that boosts us on toward our next milestone.

At every level of achievement stands a ‘trophy’.
Some people will reach a certain level and then quit, because to keep going would demand too much commitment. Others take past failures personally, and are unable to move forward. Most people don’t realise that the ebb and flow of winning and losing teaches us to persevere and nudges us slowly onward towards achieving life’s ‘trophies’.
Winning in life is a process to be enjoyed – it only comes if we persevere. Failing forward – using failures to propel us to the next level instead of giving up – is a life skill, and is particularly evident in those people who are fighting debilitating illness.

Life dictates that on the horizon are peaks we have to climb and valleys that we have to go through in order to start climbing to the next peak – at times it takes great courage to just keep on going. Companies, teams, and families all need members with the courage to persevere. It is a dynamic of life that successes usually come on the heels of what at the time appeared to be near disaster – retrenchment; a company in liquidation; the death of a close associate; financial ruin. This is why it is so important to keep the ‘big picture’ in mind, never allowing a temporary failure or setback to stand in the way of forward momentum.

Quitting is a universal problem! When we hit a roadblock, human nature tells us to try to get around it or retreat. It is occasionally a wise decision to re-evaluate our direction at a roadblock but most of the time it’s only one of the many hurdles over which we must jump in order to reach the finish line. All too often we find that, if we retreat from, or circumvent, a hurdle, that same hurdle comes around again and again until we are forced to face up to, and conquer, it.
Mark Twain very eloquently put this reality when he said, “If a cat sits on a hot stove, it won’t sit on a hot stove again. The problem is, it won’t sit on a cold stove either.” Here lies the problem! Just when we need to get up from being knocked down, we say, “I’m not trying that again, look what happened last time!”

In every adverse outcome, every failure, there lies a reason as to why the outcome was regarded as unfavourable. You could very well have taken the wrong action, at the wrong time, under the wrong circumstances, and for the wrong reason. Instead of submitting to the emotional baggage we carry away from any failure, it is far more constructive, and psychologically healthy, to find the lesson we have learned from it. These lessons are like diamonds. Clutch onto them, discard the emotional baggage, and walk away with the diamonds in your pocket. Success, in whatever form, comes from the ability to go from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm!

We lose the respect of others when we shrink from a challenge, and nobody, especially those charged with the responsibility of leading companies, want people on their teams who shrink from a challenge. A loss, a failure, should not be treated lightly. Once the lesson that comes from it has been identified, the evidence of our ability to persevere lies in our ability to deal with the disappointment, turn around, and focus on the next opportunity – the next challenge. Things change, and life moves on!

Adopt the philosophy of ‘Park and Ride’ – park yesterday’s loss or failure, and ride towards tomorrow’s opportunity. Many problems are like bad dreams – they visit us over and over! The trick is to find a ‘Generic’ solution to the problem through establishing a rule, a principle, a procedure that addresses the route cause of the problem. By following the rule, principle, or procedure you have established, it is unlikely that the same problem will revisit you because the cause will have been dealt with and removed.

The two most debilitating words in the world are: “If only …”. Many people live their lives trapped in the “If only” – “If only I had studied … If only I had applied myself in that job interview … If only I had said the right thing …”. We’ve all done it! The problem with “If only” is that it keeps us focussed on the past.
The two most uplifting words in the world are: “Next time”. The solution to the “If only” syndrome is to turn every “If only” into “Next time”. “Next time, I will pass the exam because I will study harder!” “Next time” closes out the failures of the past and keeps our focus on the opportunity of the future!

Albert Einstein’s teachers saw him as shy and slow, a student who would never give the right answers to their questions, and felt that he was sometimes stupid. He was a daydreamer, and one teacher even told him “Einstein, you will never amount to anything”. What if Albert had responded by saying, “If only I had pleased my teachers” and wallowed in memories of his unsuccessful experiences at school? At the age of 26, while an unknown clerk in a Swiss patent office, he published the Theory of Relativity. Twenty-five years later, it was said that his theory was so difficult that only ten men in the world could understand it.

Avoid the tendency to look back at defeat – it only saps away your energy. Keep your enthusiasm through tough times by dealing with failure and not personalising it. A failed project is not a failed person! Keep climbing out of the emotional pit of perceived failure. Recognise that we are all just fallible human beings – we all face difficulties, and we all fail. The exciting thing is that, if we just keep on going and keep our spirits up, that next big success lies just around the corner.

Look trouble in the eye and say, “You’re not going to defeat me!”

( Thanks to http://www.streetsmarts.co.za/ )

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