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Leadership Thought #435 – In Life And Business, There Are Winners and Losers

May 28, 2013

Free Group of Lacrosse Players Celebrating With Coach during Daytime Stock Photo

I know it is not a popular opinion to have in social and intellectual circles these days, but life does have winners and it does have losers.  We may all be equal in the eyes of God but in every other life situation, effort and outcomes matter.  I am very worried we have raised a generation of kids with the belief that everything they do is special and that winning is less important than their own search for self-fulfillment.    This generation of entitled kids will be our future employees.

Moreover, as I age myself, I see many of my peers who seem to be embracing the idea that their fate was never in their own hands and that the deck was always stacked against them by their parents, the government, big business, their school system, etc.  In this fantasy world, these points of view may resonate, but in reality, it only gives people an excuse for mediocrity and for rationalizing their own shortcomings.  You help no one, including yourself, by allowing him or her to play the victim.

Winning does matter.  We built our country on the idea of individual freedom, personal initiative, competitive markets, and free enterprise.   In the United States, we are constantly keeping score and rewarding those that achieve.  You can chose to live a reactive and safe life rather than a proactive and riskier existence, but then you are dependent upon others who create the overall conditions of success from which you earn your living.  Instead, we should embrace the concept that there are benefits from learning how to overcome adversity and from losing.

You have to be willing to fail to succeed.   There is no disgrace in losing if you truly give it your best and learn something useful in the process.  As a line from a favorite song of mine goes, “you can never win or lose if you don’t run the race” and we all have races we need to run.

Life rewards courage and penalizes cowardice.  Sometimes we have to be tested to truly understand our own personal resolve and abilities.  Some people get lucky and stumble into success but most of us have to carve out our own path through experience, hard work, determination, perseverance, acquired intelligence, and honest self-reflection.  We should care a lot less about what others do or don’t do and instead focus on how we ourselves can grow through our experiences and get better.  When confronted with less than stellar results we should always be asking the following three questions:

1)           How did I contribute to this situation?

2)           What am I supposed to learn from this?

3)           What positive next steps can I take in the course of my journey with this new knowledge?

Keeping score is never just about winning and losing. It is about being honest about results and using this information to get better.