“Be a winner!” From the moment we are born we are told by our parents, our teachers, sports, cartoons, and every reality TV show, that winning is good and losing is bad. Winners get sexy full page spreads on magazines and losers get their most unflattering photo, usually, a mugshot retweeted five million times. Because when you’re winning, everyone wants to be your friend, you’re cuter, smarter, funnier and even forgivable. But when you’re losing, you’re unpopular, lame, less attractive and definitely unforgivable.
Thanks to this world’s infatuation with competition, presidential elections, and most DJ Khaled songs, most people think you have to win in order to be successful. But here’s the little secret about success, it has nothing to do with winning.
Success is about collecting experiences that amount to positive outcomes in our lives. Winning a tournament, a game, or a thumb war doesn’t make us more successful, it makes us more confident. And I’m a big fan of confidence because it helps us achieve goals and meet challenges that build us and help us grow as humans. But we don’t need to win to be successful. I’ve had to lose at many personal and professional ventures to learn how to be better, and every loss has gotten me to a positive challenge in my life. Every challenge has helped me grow, and dare-I-say become a better person, so yeah, I think I’m successful. But not because of what I have earned, because of what I’ve learned.
I’ve learned that patience and perseverance provide the same amount of confidence as winning does. And let’s be real, winning doesn’t guarantee happiness, so why do we want to win so badly? Maybe we just want to win so we can feel liked and respected. So we can have a voice, and get a seat at the head table. For some people, winning is the only way out of a difficult life, so they’ve been raised to chase the win.
The trouble with equating success to winning is that winning isn’t always fair. Winning doesn’t happen to every person who studies long hours or practices daily. Winning happens to people who are in the right place, often with the right amount of preparation, at the right time. Winning is a privilege, not always within reach. We don’t always win, and not because we’re not dedicated or lack talent. Not because we’re not working as hard, or lack passion. Some people don’t get to win because they don’t have the support system, the funds, the opportunity, the confidence, or the luck.
But not winning doesn’t make you a loser, and that’s the narrative that we need to change within ourselves. When we don’t win, we gain something else. Maybe it’s not money, or fame or a trophy, but we gain patience and strength. We learn to bounce back faster, be kinder, more creative and build from our experiences. We become teachers to those willing to listen and learn from our defeats. We become proof that there is a purpose and a reason to be.
I’ve lost countless times, in relationships, at school, in business, at trivia. And it sucks, it’s painful sometimes and it makes you want to quit everything, run away, and erase your Facebook profile. Because it’s humiliating to feel like a loser when all 800 of your closest acquaintances are watching. But it could always be worse, just ask Ms. Colombia or the cast and crew of La La Land. #Akward.
But you wanna know the good news? The best part about all the losses we go through is that if we’re willing to accept and learn from them, the next time it happens it won’t hurt as bad. Oh, you thought I was going to say, “the next time we get what we want?” I keep it real, you know this. So yes, be prepared to keep losing, and keep dusting your shoulders off. BUT, whatever you do, DO NOT GIVE UP. Because the only thing worse than trying and losing is the fear of defeat. You will win and you will lose and that is called success. You will be loved and you will be hated on, and that is called success. But if you keep moving, you will persevere and that is called success.