Leading with Character: Losing and Winning
The National Basketball Association (NBA) post-season playoffs ended dramatically for the favored team—the Milwaukee Bucks—when they were upset by the Miami Heat a couple of weeks ago. The Bucks had a fantastic season going into the playoffs and a star player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, was key to that success. Being knocked out of the playoffs came as a big surprise, and Antetokounmpo was asked afterwards if he considered the season to be a failure.
Losses Lead to Success
My favorite sports writer, Jason Gay, penned a thoughtful piece on the encounter, and it inspired this blog. It seems the intrepid player surprised everyone with his passionate response. He argued that losing a game, or even a season, is not a failure. Rather, it’s all part of working toward a goal, and the losses are steps along the way to success. Antetokounmpo went on to explain that “It’s the wrong question. There’s no failure in sports.”
That sentence caught my attention and made me think…losing and failure are not the same thing. People work hard—whether it’s players on the basketball court or employees at their job—to achieve a goal. Each workout on the court, or each call to a prospective client, is a step toward success on life’s journey. Over time, there are wins on the court; there are promotions in the office. But there are also losses. Games that are lost; sales that aren’t made. Nobody wins all the time. Even the best players and employees lose. Sometimes people and teams experience losing streaks, and that can feel like defeat. But it isn’t! Those who continue to work hard, and persevere over time, are likely to meet with success in achieving their goals.
Success Isn’t Always About Winning
So, does that mean every athlete is going to eventually win the competition, every student will earn the highest grade in the class, or every employee will sell the most product? I don’t think so. Rather, it goes to the meaning of success, which is unique to each individual. Maybe for some it’s enough to strive to become the best person and the best leader they can be, even if that doesn’t include winning all the time.
I’m definitely a better person and leader because of what losing has taught me. In fact, I’ve learned more from losing than I have from winning. For instance, losing has helped me be humble; it has taught me to focus more on others than on myself. Losing has enabled me to be more compassionate and recognize when others—who seldom find themselves holding the trophy—need encouragement. Losing has helped me be more innovative and creative to improve and do better next time. Losing—not winning—has been my key to success.
Keep on Trying
So, back to the basketball star Giannis Antetokounmpo and whether he and the Milwaukee Bucks failed this season. I don’t think so. Sure, they lost in the playoffs, but they’re stronger for it. They won’t give up. They’ll work harder this year, continue to improve their game, and be back next season—ready to try again.
Look in the mirror. Think about it; do you learn more from winning or losing?
Please join me next time for more on Leading with Character.
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