When losing means winning

I have been called a loser more than once.

Oftentimes it's by my kids who don't like some stupid joke I just played on them but admittedly I have made a bucket load of mistakes in my time and have lost everything from money, to employees, to elections, to friends. I have even lost the trail in the bush a few times.

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I lost twice this week - at least the basketball team I coach did - in our quest to be the best junior A girls team possible. Going into the tournament we had a perfect record of 17 wins and 0 losses. However, the teams we played were older, bigger and faster, and the losses humbled us. Still, the defeats we suffered were invaluable to our squad in our quest to be the best we can be.

Losing hurts, and if you are like me, you probably don't typically like losing, but it is a part of our lives and our businesses.

If it hurts so badly, how can losing be valuable?

My biggest financial loss takes me back to 1998 when my partners and I opened up a new business. As the operating partner, it was my responsibility to see that the business made money and was successful. This didn't happen. In fact, the business lost hundreds of thousands of dollars over the first three years before I was able to turn it around and run it profitably until 2017 when I sold out.

Yes, I could blame others, the economy, location and a whole litany of other things but ultimately I had to face the fact that I made some bad decisions and poor choices. As a leader, I took my company down a difficult path that was painful for people in the company and my family.

Ask me if I would do it again and the answer would be a resounding yes. That loss and those difficult years taught me so many things that enriched my life. Here is what I found valuable in losing:

Clarity: when we lose something, we start to understand what is important. We see clearer what we value and those things that are significant to us. Having a big financial loss might give us clarity that family and friendships are important, that preparation and planning make a difference, that there is so much more to life than money.

Resilience: when we suffer a loss, we start to realize how strong we can be. We start to think differently and figure out ways to get out of a tough spot. In turning around a basketball game or a business, we need to be tough and fight for what we want. Losing teaches us that we can come back.

Learning: I have learned more through my losses than I ever have through my wins. The reason that learning is such a great benefit of losing is that we often spend more time dwelling on the reasons for our loss. Whether we have lost a love, or an investment, the impression is probably burned into our brain as something we don't want to feel again. Learning from our mistakes is what drives us to be better.

Humility: I don't have all the answers and I am more likely to listen to those who might when I get into a tough spot. Losing is truly humbling and through that humility not only do we gain knowledge but we gain friendships.

My team did lose this weekend and I suspect we might lose a few more times before the end of the season. However, the losses we suffered actually encouraged our team to fight harder and to believe in ourselves more. Not only did my basketball team learn from the experience, it bonded them together.

Having a strong team that has been fortified by going through tough experiences enables you to be able to face challenges that you might not have been able to before. Whether it is in our personal lives, business or sports, losing can change us forever in a positive manner.

However, if we fear failure, we rarely take the risks that give us those chances to grow as a company or as a person.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning certified professional business coach and the author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Email dave@profityourselfhealthy.com.

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