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Leadership Thought #435 – In Life And Business, There Are Winners and Losers

I know it’s not a popular opinion to have in social and intellectual circles theses days, but life does have winners and losers (and a bunch of people who rarely ever compete for anything).  All of us may be equal in the eyes of God (a sentiment I wholly I agree with), however in every other life situation, effort and outcomes do matter.  I am very worried that a generation of kids and now younger employees has been raised with the belief that everything they do is special and that winning is less important than their own search for self-fulfillment.  Moreover, as I age myself, I see alot of my peers who are embracing the idea that their fate was never in their own hands and the deck was always stacked against them by their parents, the government, big business, their school system, etc.  In a fantasy world these points of view may resonate, but in reality it only gives people an excuse for mediocrity and rationalizing their own shortcomings.  It also creates alot of fodder for psychoanalysts and drug companies.

Sure, there may be those of us who are victims of circumstance and have to overcome way more obstacles than others, but the history of humankind is full of examples of individuals who overcame great odds and accomplished remarkable things.  We should also never forget that in America, our daily challenges pale in comparison to the common plight of people in the developing world.  Just look at how quickly immigrants to this country quickly embrace the American dream and climb the social ladder.  We all have stories in our family of ancestors who came here with next to nothing but somehow figured out a way to fit in and thrive.  Our excuses for our own lack of progress are minimal at best.  You help no one (including yourself) by allowing them to play the victim.

Winning does matter.  Our country is built on the idea of individual freedom, personal initiative, competitive markets and free enterprise.   In the Unites States we are constantly keeping score and rewarding those that achieve in all walks of life.  You can chose to live a reactive and safe life rather than a proactive and riskier existence, but then you are dependent upon others who create the overall conditions of success from which you earn your living.  This doesn’t mean that all successful people do it the right way or have admirable values.  There will always be individuals who cheat the system or take advantage of the less fortunate.  However, I would contend that this number is smaller than everyone thinks and our legal system (contrary to popular opinion) does a good job of ferreting them out.  It certainly is not perfect, but our civic system and the “rule of law” does exist and often works. Regardless, we all learn from an early age that life isn’t fair and all we can control is our actions in response to anything that happens.  There are very few true victims in life…

We should also embrace the concept that there are benefits from learning how to overcome adversity and losing.  The kid who strikes out too often takes more batting practice and learns how to adjust his/her technique.  They may also decide to take up another sport or activity that better suits their abilities.  The student who fails an exam, studies harder the next time and ask others for help if they struggle with understanding something.  The adult who backs themselves into a financial corner (through their own decision making) learns how to make better money decisions.  The entrepreneur, who fails with one business venture, learns what they did wrong and applies it to future enterprises.   You have to be willing to fail to succeed.   There is no disgrace in losing if you truly give it your best and learn something useful in the process.  As a line from a favorite song of mine goes, “you can never win or lose if you don’t run the race” and we all have races we need to run.

Life rewards courage and penalizes cowardice.  Sometimes we have to be tested to truly understand our own personal resolve and abilities.  Some people get lucky and stumble into success but most of us have to carve out our own success path through experience, hard work, determination, perseverance, acquired intelligence, and honest self-reflection.  We should care alot less about what others do or don’t do and instead focus on how we ourselves can grow through experience and get better.  When confronted with less than stellar results we should always be asking the following three questions:

1)      How did I contribute to this situation?

2)    What am I supposed to learn from this?

3)     What positive next steps can I take in the course of my journey with this new knowledge?

Keeping score is never just about winning and losing. It is about being honest about results and using this information to get better.


3 Responses

  1. Great Article

  2. Ed, I enjoyed reading your blog. Great stuff! I recently started blogging so if you would be so kind, please sign up to follow me as well.


  3. Well said!

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