Learning to love losing

Posted by Matt Rolph, on April 4, 2022.

Is it possible to perform at your best, every single day? To always be your most efficient, productive self, always at the top of your game? I know I don’t. Not every day. Don’t get me wrong; I try to as often as I can, but we all have bad days, right?

The England Rugby team recently taught me that it’s OK to lose.

It’s a big year for rugby fans like me. Not so for football fanatics like Callum (our marketing coordinator), he couldn’t be less interested in rugby and insists on telling me how much better football is at any given opportunity. So, I’m aware I’ve probably lost the attention of over half of you now, those of you like Callum who couldn’t give a monkey’s about rugby, but stick with me because this isn’t really about rugby. It’s not really about sport at all. It’s more about what we in business, can learn from sport. And actually, how we can use comparisons to sport to make ourselves feel better!

The Rugby World Cup takes place in Japan this year, starting on Friday 20th September. Which means that the Six Nations tournament which has just recently finished, was that bit more exciting because all fans like me, were looking to the future. Asking ourselves questions like; How likely is our team going to do well in the World Cup? How ready are we? What chance do we actually have?

The Six Nations is always a great tournament, but this additional factor made it even more so this year. At the time of writing this there are still 2 weekends left, so I can’t comment on the final outcome and I can’t say anything about the winners or losers. Which is probably best after England lost to Wales in our last game – I’m not brave (or stupid) enough to predict anything at this stage!

But it’s the recent loss to Wales that brings me to my point. Although it was tough to watch at the time, it’s probably not a bad thing to happen in preparation for the World Cup later this year. Sometimes, winning 100% of the time is counterproductive. Sometimes, you need a loss or two in order to stop, think, and then sharpen your axe.

Which is easier to breakdown and analyse in relation to sport, more so than it is in business.

Gary Vaynerchuk, who I listen to a lot these days, talks about how much he loves to lose. Which I never really understood – or believed – because, who really loves to lose? Like, really?! It’s OK as a sound-bite to get people’s attention, but does he really mean it?

I actually think he does. Because he says; “if you lose, it’s because you actually deserved to lose.” Which is a good thing for you to find out. You need to realise that you did something wrong, or that you weren’t good enough, and that there are people out there who are better than you or at least, doing things better than you are.

In realising that it’s your fault that you lost, you can do something about it.

In the end, making you better, if you learn from it and do whatever it takes to stop deserving to lose. If you look at it that way, then you can actually enjoy losing because deep-down, you know that each loss is going to make you better.

Which I hope is true for the England Rugby team. Because unlike us in business, where we get a new opportunity every morning to be better and keep winning, they have one World Cup this year and it’s their one opportunity to prove that they’re the best team in the world. It’s, do it this autumn, or wait another 4 years for the same opportunity!

Can you really enjoy losing if you’ve got to then wait for 4 years before you can prove to the world that yes, you deserved it back then, but look at you now. Look how much better you are!

Fortunately for us, we don’t have World Cups in business. No day, or week, or month is more important than any other. A loss today can be followed by some harsh lessons but then a win tomorrow. And the next day, and the day after that!

We get to lose, then establish what we did wrong to deserve that loss – because we did deserve it – and then come out f ighting the next day and do what it takes to win.

Hopefully, between the Welsh match and the final two games in the recent Six Nations competition, England did exactly that. Which we’ll all know by now because it’s all over and done with, but even if they don’t and they haven’t won, then at least they have the next 5 months to learn from it before it really matters later this year.

Which leaves me pondering one more question, if you had 5 months to prepare for your biggest competition in the world, in your business, what would you do? That’s got to be worth some thought.