Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Value of Losing

“You lost today, kid, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it.”

In the opening sequence of the third Indiana Jones movie River Phoenix plays a young Indy attempting to keep profiteers from getting their hands on the Cross of Coronado. Young Indy fails. The leader of the profiteers tells Indy, “You lost today, kid, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it.”

Everyone loses, and more than just contests. Anytime you don’t get what you want then you lose. You don’t get that job. You don’t win that contract. You lose a friend. You lose your partner. You can’t have the one you love. You lose your job. You lose money. Our lives are replete with losing.

How does a person deal with losing? Does it make them angry? Does that anger bleed into other areas of their lives? Do they take it out on someone, or something, else? Do they throw a tantrum?  Does it paralyze them? Do they resort to cheating or breaking the law in order to win?

The value of losing is learned (or not learned) as we grow up. As a child and teenager how we are taught to deal with losing is how we will deal with losing as adults. At the front line are parents, followed closely by coaches, teachers, and other adult leaders who serve as a mentor. When children lose those who lead them should be setting the example and providing a guide on how to learn from failure.

Whenever disappointment is encountered a person can choose to externalize or internalize. To externalize is to look outside of yourself, to blame others, for why you failed, or lost. To internalize is to recognize your contribution to why you lost and to work on growing and improving yourself. Little league sports is a good example.

Little league sports are about learning the game, improving skills, acquiring discipline and determination, building character and respect, and learning how to win and how to lose. (Actually, any endeavor can be said to embody the same characteristics; school, hobbies, extra-curricular activities, even inter-personal relationships.) One very important aspect is to have fun in whatever you do. Winning is certainly more fun than losing, but winning is the by-product of your actions and attitude. Winning in a team sport is the by-product of all the player’s and coach’s actions and attitudes. You don’t win because you want to win. You win because you want to be the best in your actions and with your attitude. And when you lose you see that as an opportunity to improve yourself, to improve your skills, and to improve mentally.

If losing makes you angry and spiteful, and you look outside yourself for the answers, then you have lost at life. Learning and growing from losing, from your failures, is how you win at anything you do.

“You lost today, kid, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it.” Indy didn’t like losing, but he learned and he grew. Twenty-five years later he had another opportunity to retrieve the Cross of Coronado, and this time Indiana Jones won.

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