Essential lessons from winning and losing.
I recently lost a contest.
After years of working, I’m back experiencing student life. Our school (TBS) partnered with a company that gave us students a challenge to come up with new ideas for a project they were working on in-house. We were divided into two teams and had two rounds before the final decision.
My team worked so hard that in the first round, we got not only one, but two of our ideas selected. Of course, this got us charged. But it also meant double the work. Everything went well, we put in as much work as we could before the final presentation and even got down to the nitty-gritty of appearance for the d-day.
But lo and behold. On that day, minutes before we could stand up there and present, some links started going loose! We realized that:
- Our choice of platform – mode of presentation – wasn’t available.
- In switching our platform, we lost some of our formattings.
- A tough question got me rambling or what the French would call ‘n’importe quoi.’
Three important questions to ask yourself.
They say that bad luck drops in in threes. We got them all plus the bonus of not winning, of course. Lucky for us, the winning team deserved it because they had done all the work we had done and then some.
But the question is, when do we learn the most? From winning or from losing?
Like Maroon 5 (yes, I’m citing their latest hit ‘Memories’) sing, all these events – ‘the ones that we got’ and ‘the ones that we lost’- are worth something. As a student of life and a life student I always ask myself;
- What worked to make me win?
- What didn’t work that led to the loss?
- Given another chance, what would I have done differently?
A great learning environment takes you through this circle and gives you an opportunity for a do-over. Because with a do-over, after a good reflection, a good student cements learning.
Losing is painful, but winning can be a pain when you can’t replicate it in future runs.
But I’ll be lying if I said that I don’t like winning.
From the first time I tasted winning at around five years old, I knew I would be seeking it out more. It was at an end year party at my late dad’s workplace. When the DJ asked all the children to come to dance.
The winning child got to win their dad a crate of beer! I didn’t care so much about the beer, but I knew winning would make my father so proud. So I danced. I danced like crazy and needless to say, I won. And dad got his crate of beer, which he shared with all the other dads.
I’ve gone on to win many other times. I have also lost some. But, when the applause and self-bashing ends, it’s the lessons that count for me.
Back in my primary school days, we had termly and yearly exams and were ranked by numbers based on our overall marks. I had friends who would cry on receiving their report form.
They didn’t want to go home because they were ‘not number one,’ It baffled me sometimes because they would have performed well. Better than most, sometimes. But it wasn’t enough.
As for me, it was easy. All my parents expected of me was an improvement. The only person they asked that I ‘beat’ was myself.
So the question was, ‘did you do better than last time?’ If yes, how? If not, why? This allowed me to always measure my performance against my performance. And, as long as I was improving, I was learning, and that was enough.
So, go on and make that toss.
Losing isn’t a bad thing. It shows that you put yourself out there. You turned up. Winning is excellent because it means that you covered all the bases. Or maybe got lucky like I did with the dancing.
My last loss gave me so many lessons. I worked with some fantastic, spirited young people including Rahavie who’s energy and drive kept the team going. I learned new stuff about an industry I initially cared little about. And, most importantly, if I get the opportunity for a do-over, I got a plan.
So here’s to the ones that you got. But don’t be hard on yourself, go ahead and toss to the ones that you lost along the way because they all give us valuable lessons.
About the Author: Dolphine Emali Rambaud is a Kenyan currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Communication, Marketing and Management at TBS.