What We Gain from Losing
Updated: Aug 14
If you've spent any time online today, I'm sure you've already read or heard multiple examples of people touting their achievements, publicly pep-talking themselves to achieve their dreams, or being celebrated by others for the "wins" in their lives.
New babies, new jobs, and new achievements.
Victory. Success. Winning!
The American Dream. Well, the joyful reaping part of it. People don't like to share the sowing.
In fact, what many fail to realize -- and what the majority of social media posts don't celebrate -- is that the true victories in life are not on the exterior. The key wins are more frequent and critical on the interior; the exterior simply exhibits the interior over time.
The key wins are more frequent and critical on the interior; the exterior simply exhibits the interior over time.
I've kicked life around here and there, but life has also kicked my a** a few times. From these victories and defeats, I've learned that there are many benefits of losing in life.
No, not settling there, embracing the mindset of "I am a loser," but training your brain to find the long-term wins that come, or will come, from the short-term loss.
When I think of a short-term loss, I think of a karate sparring match I got into with a girl when I was around 10 years old. Don't worry, it was at a gym and we had pads on -- jeez, what kind of childhood did you think I had?
Anyway, why do I think of this story? Well, for two reasons:
(1) I lost miserably, and;
(2) This match was very "short-term" -- like, to an embarrassing degree.
She absolutely pummeled me! I don't think I even got a shot in. Maybe a comment or a squeal, but not a punch. What I thought was going to be a fun, flirtatious jaunt around a ring with a cutie in a white karate outfit ended up being an ego-bashing episode with a girl who had to be Muhammad Ali's god-daughter (wait ... totally should've looked into that).
I clearly lost that day, but now that I look back, I know that it taught me lessons that have continued to pay dividends. Yes, I lost some ego, my street cred, and some brain matter, but what I gained was so much more valuable: I learned the value of preparing for the toughest opponent and the absurdity of assuming women were weaker.
The losses we take in life are no different -- hopefully less emasculating, but no different in the way that matters.
Here are some examples -- perhaps you can relate to one of them:
(1) Losing that thing.
When we lose the things that we "need" desperately, we often realize that we didn't need them -- we just really wanted them. We learn to be more appreciative of the things we truly need and already have. We gain gratitude and perspective. Or, if we decide that we truly needed them, we gain patience and tact as we wait, and maneuver, for that genuinely-needed "thing."
(2) Losing that person.
When we lose the relationship that has always made us feel safe, valued, and "on the track towards a happy life," we're rocked out of our comfort zone a little bit -- forced to learn who we are as an individual. We're taught pretty quickly that what we called "safe" was actually being "sheltered" from the survivable cold, and delightfully warm, realities of the world. We gain more insight into who we are: what we crave, what movies we actually want to see, and what dreams of ours may have been overshadowed by theirs.
My wife and my story exhibits this also. I actually met Daniella two months after her mom lost a six-year battle with cancer. If she had never lost her mother, my wife never would've allowed her friend to create a Match.com profile and reluctantly put out a search for impressive studs (like me). From great loss, Daniella gained something pretty awesome (again, me).
Okay, now you're actually relieved that I got my a** kicked as a kid...
(3) Losing out on that dream.
Here's another one -- good luck finding this on social...
When we take a big swing at our biggest dreams, and strike out, we (you guessed it) gain so much more.
When we fail to build what we've always envisioned, we may lose momentum, an uncomfortable amount of money, and maybe even our faith in ourselves for a time, but we gain the first-hand knowledge of how to fail at its attainment.
As we lick our wounds and cling to safe harbor for a time, we gain a far less obligatory appreciation of the stable, predictable, and soothing things in life.
When we lose, we lose the fear of doing so, and we gain a deeper confidence that the sun will rise the next day.
As the pain wears off and a new inflow of ideas occurs, we gain a fresh reminder of our dream's purity and persistence.
And when we finally reach that summit -- however incremental or final it may be -- we will gain the satisfaction of knowing how hard each setback was. Our losses along the journey gives us such a deeper sense of relief, pride, and appreciation. After all, nobody values anything they receive quickly.
And this phenomenon begs the question:
What if the achievements and objects we crave in life are designed to lead us into loss -- losses that grant gains more valuable than the original aim ever could?
Something to think about.
What about you? Think about a race, a material object, or a feat you "lost" (or missed) in life. What did it teach you? Are you grateful for that knowledge? I'd love to see your comments here.