Learning To Love Losing

Losing is the worst, right? The type of people who "love losing" sound like they just can't be bothered to put in any effort. People who care about success want to be winners! We want all our hard work to pay off. We want money, love, and praise to flow to us, and those are the bounties of victors, not of the poor saps who we leave choking on our dust.

Herein lies the conundrum: learning and growth can only occur through loss. In order to grow, we need to know where our current boundaries stand, and it's impossible to see our boundaries without going at least one step too far. For example, if you want to improve your jump height, you first keep trying until you hit a wall. "I reached the six-foot mark, but when I tried to go for six-foot-one, I failed."

Failure is inevitable, unless you give up all chance of improvement. But if it's such an important part of our development, why does it make us feel so bad? There's a whole host of psychological factors that contribute to our negative perception. Here's an example: the pain of losing a dollar is much more powerful than the pleasure of gaining a dollar. For our prehistoric ancestors, failure - such as getting injured while hunting, or not outrunning a predator - often meant pain and death. We carry these vestigial impulses with us to this day, though they don't serve us as they once did.

In our fast-paced modern society, conscious, focused learning through exploring our boundaries forms the quickest path to success. That means lots of failing. And it's hard to keep failing if it bothers you badly.

The key to overcoming this fear is practicing in low-risk environments. (Fellow competitive spirits, I know that nothing is really a "low-risk environment" - a friendly game of cards can feel as important as vying for a coveted professional position - but bear with me).

Take a deep breath. Now, mess something up. Throw a piece of paper at a trash can - and miss. Eat something that's not in your diet plan. Jump up and try to touch something you know you can't reach.

Now, smile. Giggle. Marvel at the silliness of it all. Rinse and repeat. If you can make it a habit to experience and accept small losses, you'll be well-protected against the failures that inevitably accompany achieving great goals.

The picture at the top of this post is a great example of embracing loss. The funny worm-looking thing you see with the green "400" doubles its damage every time it takes a hit. It got to 400 damage (an order of magnitude more than the damage necessary to kill me) because I used my remaining cards to make it so. I knew as soon as that card was played that I was going to lose, but instead of grumbling about how fate had done me wrong, I took the opportunity to share a moment of delight with my opponent (and possibly learned something in the process).

It's a constant work in progress for me. I still sometimes get unreasonably angry when I lose at Mario Kart. And then I do my best to breathe and remember that it's all just a game.

Did you have a time when you opened yourself up to loss or failure, and it opened you up to unexpected revelations? Share below!

I'll leave you with this great Garfunkel & Oates song that illustrates the point perfectly.