October 6

How to Lose to Really Win

How to Lose to Really Win

By Deborah Johnson

October 6, 2023

Atomic Habits, constructive feedback, Deborah Johnson, failure, growth mindset, how to lose, James Clear, journaling, lifelong learning, Michael Jordon, perspective, podcast, setbacks, success

In a world obsessed with winning, it may seem counterintuitive to suggest that losing can be a pathway to true victory. It’s not fun to lose. For example, in most every card or board game, when the pieces are set, my inner competitiveness starts revealing itself, strategizing the best avenue to win. This fact did not sit well with my father-in-law when Greg and I were first married and we all decided to play the board game Risk. The key to winning the game is to take control over all the continents of the world. It’s a game of strategy, but also luck.

My new father-in-law was a brilliant man and had played the game many times. It was my first time and I proceeded to ask a lot of questions, eventually immersing myself in the game with my competitive streak revealing itself. The fact that I then won the game over everyone is still a memory I hold dear as it wasn’t because anyone let me win. Winning was fun, but the response was less than ideal from the man who was now part of my immediate family. I think that was the last time I played the game with my father in law as I think it could have been more problematic as the years progressed if we had played again.

Even though winning is fun and losing is not, upon closer examination, it becomes evident that losing carries valuable lessons that can shape our character, fuel personal growth, and ultimately lead us to triumph. In this article, we delve into the concept of how to lose to really win and explore the principles and strategies that can help us harness the power of defeat to propel us towards success.

Women at Halftime by Deborah Johnson How to Lose to Really Win with Deborah Johnson 10-10-2023
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What Losing Teaches Us

Whether it's a setback in a competition, a failed endeavor, or a missed opportunity, embracing the art of losing can transform our perspective, fortify our resilience, and pave the way for meaningful success. Losses can become catalysts for personal growth with the right mindset, as we unlock the secrets to turning setbacks into stepping stones on the path to victory.

With a growth mindset, we have the ability to learn and grow from failures and losses. It is a personal choice to accept losing as a learning opportunity for strategies and methods that don’t work. The development of mental and emotional resilience helps to adapt and persevere in the face of adversity. Losing also helps to clarify our goals and priorities, adopting the courage and persistence needed to realize our objectives with even greater determination. All of this works together to confront our fears, take calculated risks and keep moving forward despite the fear of failing again.

Michael Jordon, widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, was initially cut from the high school varsity basketball team. But he didn’t give up, making the team the following year. Then he wasn’t the first overall pick in the NBA draft. He was chosen third by the Chicago Bulls. Jordon’s workout routine became legendary as he would often arrive early in the morning on game day to work out. He never quit doing the repetitions that were necessary to make shooting a basketball into an 18-inch rim at least ten feet off the floor. This is truly a winning mindset.

A Winning Mindset

The willingness to grow is the most important aspect of developing and maintaining a winning mindset. Life is full of opportunities to practice this. When I didn’t do well in one of my first classical piano competitions under a strict but outstanding instructor, I realized where I needed to grow. Even though this was back in my high school days, the principles I learned still apply today with the importance of a healthy shift of focus. I had focused more on getting my hair done at the beauty school and wearing a new dress we bought on sale than putting in the type of work needed to compete well. Fortunately, my experiences and outcomes with competition improved greatly after that. Strategies to Immediately apply: 

One: Acknowledge the setback and decide to learn from it.

One of the best ways to do this is to write down thoughts and responses in a journal. There are many good resources on methods of journaling and how to approach this, but it doesn’t have to be a fancy process. Make it simple and easy for consistency and success with even just a small notepad. But make sure it’s easy to access and organized enough to refer to again and again. Many times, what is expressed on a page becomes much clearer upon review. For those who have a linear and logical thought pattern, this process is especially valuable. Don’t put this off. With the passing of time, details of what happened become less clear with fuzzy recall. This is a humble process, admitting we are less than perfect, but very important. Get your FREE Goals Setting Worksheets here: Goal Setting

goal setting worksheets-Deborah Johnson

Two: Seek constructive feedback and support.

This type of feedback could even come from current team members. There also may be those on a board or committee that were afraid of speaking up and the openness to hear those opinions after failures or less than optimal outcomes could be enlightening and informative in making the necessary changes. Also, don’t discount professional contacts and coaches who have more experience, insights and perspectives from years of experience. In step two of the book Stop Circling, we cover a number of chapters on ways to obtain valuable feedback and perspective and it’s worth reading. An elevated perspective is similar to the view one obtains on a flight over a city. When viewing roads, buildings and even swimming pools from between 33,000 and 42,000 feet, the world looks different. Our problems also look different.

Three: Evaluate and redefine success and purpose

This doesn’t mean we have to lower our standards. However, it does mean to not focus on perfectionism, but focus on the type of change that is necessary to create a different outcome. Changes can be very small and very effective. James Clear in his book Atomic Habits gives the example of British professional cyclists making 1 percent improvements in unexpected areas. These improvements ranged from teaching riders how to wash their hands to determining the type of pillow and mattress provided that led to the best night’s sleep for each rider. The result was the British team set nine Olympic records and seven world records. The small unexpected changes worked and they are the type of changes most of us ignore.

Our Response and Application

The willingness to embrace failure as a valuable teacher is one of the most important responses in how to lose. We can’t be afraid to move on. When someone falls of a bike, like I recently did, it’s important to understand what went wrong, if anything, and not be afraid to get right back up on a bike at some point to ride again. Michael Jordon has a shooting percentage of 49.7%, which means he missed more shots than he made. But he kept shooting and of course, we’re all glad he did!


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How Mind Games will Hold You Back from Your Potential

Losing carries valuable lessons that can shape our character, fuel personal growth, and ultimately lead us to triumph.

deborah johnson

Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author

If you are interested in growing and learning, check out our online courses here: Online Learning

1,196 words

Deborah Johnson

About the author

DEBORAH JOHNSON, M.A., creator of Hero Mountain® and former president of Los Angeles National Speakers Association, is an international award-winning music artist, author, speaker and National Media Commentator. She also hosts the popular podcast "Women at Halftime." Deborah provides tools to create your ideal lifestyle and work at mid-career or during the halftime of life, getting unstuck. You can live your second half fulfilled, focused and free! Up for multiple GRAMMY Awards and spending over 20 years in the entertainment industry, she's an expert on how to constantly reinvent yourself in a gig-economy. She is also the recipient of the Women's Economic Forum Exceptional Women of Excellence Award. Deborah is the author of multiple books, over twenty albums and musicals and speaks and performs in both live and virtual events.

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