I got inspired by the Brazil-Germany game in the 2014 world cup. The images of the Brazilian fans and the players brought home more thoughts and reflections than any commentary or analysis that followed. Those people were devastated. The game with the Netherlands did not make it better.
What are your associations with words "losing" or "failure"? Take a moment to reflect on the last time that you or your team missed a target, came in at the bottom of the list on the scorecard, someone special broke up with you in a way you did not see coming, you lost your job... Chances to hit the rock bottom are plentiful and nobody is guaranteed success. Success is a function of hard determined work and luck, so (provided that luck is a domain of divine providence), each and every one of us faces numerous situations when the odds are not in our favour. We lose. We fail. It's natural.
So, coming back to my original question - what associations arise in your mind when you hear or face situations of losing and/or failure? Despair, anger, denial, insignificance, misery, betrayal, vengeance, wrath, unworthiness... There many ways to fail - big and small - and obviously all of us deal with losing differently, so this associative list will be different for all of us. One thing, however, will be true: few people take it in a positive manner.
There is a danger in wrapping oneself in negative emotions: they significantly reduce creativity and innovation - attributes critical to recover quickly and get back on track. I started wondering, who would recover faster from the 7-1 score: the Brazilian players or their fans. Doing a quick search on Google and reading through the materials, I was surprised at my conclusion that most likely it was much more dramatic for the fans than for the players themselves. When you do competitive sports, you are primed to the idea of losing: it is inevitable, and you will lose thousands of times before you actually get that goal in or put the ace through that will win you your first Wimbledon. This video below mentions also that some companies prefer to hire ex-professional sportsmen just because they are comfortable with losing and learn more from failure than those who are only accustomed to winning:
Failures are and should be regarded as opportunities to grow:
- they make us stop and reconsider. Successes give us wings and push forward, but do not give enough impetus to pause and understand what it is that made us succeed. Self-reflection and self-awareness are key to effective leadership.
- it is when it's most dark that you start to see the light. Often failures are those moments in life, when it really starts getting better, because it just can't get worse. Do not lose your faith in yourself, and then failure will be the catalyst for setting yourself straight again. These are the Stanley Kubrick moments that teach you about human frailty and key personal values.
- you are most authentic when you have lost. Losing makes you more human: you are likely to let your emotions show, you are seen vulnerable, you turn to others for support - this is normal and authentic. Do not hide this - demonstrating your real self, your true thoughts and feelings, admitting publicly that you are not invincible are the key pre-requisites for vulnerability-based trust.