Highly Successful Losers

Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.” Vince Lombardi

It seems appropriate to write about sport while I’m out in Australia. And blimey, if ever there was a nation obsessed with sport this is it.

Like America, Oz is a nation that likes its sportsmen and women to be winners. The quote from the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers would be applauded here every bit as much as it’s traditionally been in the States.

But for every winner there’s a loser – and I was fascinated when I stumbled across an article written by Paddy Upton, who’s the mental conditioning coach of the South African cricket team. Here’s the link if you’d like to read it in full.

If you’re a cricket fan, you’ll know that South Africa made a rapid and fairly inglorious exit from the recent T20 World Cup. That prompted Upton’s article. His view was simple – we’re all going to lose at some point. It’s how you react to it and what you learn from losing that’s important.

The parallel with business is so obvious as to be almost not worth stating. We’re all going to make mistakes; we’re Tall going to have things go wrong. And it’s how we react and what we learn that makes the difference in the long run.

Upton identified seven key characteristics or behaviours that can turn losing into a positive experience in the long term. These were:

1. Acknowledge the feeling – and accept that the disappointment will gradually subside
2. Accept the result – it’s part of sport and life
3. Get the right perspective. It’s a game. As Boris Becker famously said, “Nobody died.”
4. Support other people. “Self-focus sinks. Helping others uplifts.”
5. Reflect on your preparation. What did you do well? What can you do better next time?
6. Reflect on the event. As above, what did you do well? And what could you have done better?
7. Finally, commit to action. Write it down, get moving again and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

I could compare all those seven points to business – but given the space I have and the time you have, let me concentrate on just two of them.

Accept the result. If a business venture has gone wrong, that’s all that’s happened. Your family haven’t stopped loving you, and you haven’t suddenly become a bad person. You tried; it didn’t work out. Fine; pick yourself up and move on. You tried – which immediately puts you ahead of 99% of the population.

Secondly, point seven, which I think is the most important. Write it down and commit to action. Always when something has gone wrong in my business career there’s come a moment when I’ve been angry – but not kick-a-hole-in-the-dressing-room-wall angry. Focused angry, when I’ve been determined that I wasn’t going to be beaten. That’s the time to commit to action and write down your new goals.

And if you need help, ask for it. Upton freely talks about Allan Donald, once the best fast bowler in the world constantly asking for help – and what’s true in South Africa is equally true in North Yorkshire. If you want help, I’m here. So are your TAB colleagues. As the old saying goes ‘it’s not what happens to you in life that matters, it’s how you react to it.’ Even if something has gone wrong, there are a whole group of people ready to help you react in the right way.


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