Posts Tagged ‘failure’

Why Losing Makes for Winners

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Okay, I’ll admit it.  When I was younger, I wouldn’t have believed it either.

After all, most of us grow up with the idea that winning is everything and losing is for . . . well . . .  Losers.

Is it any wonder then why we balk at the thought of accepting rejection as an integral part of our lives?

That sooner or later into every life a little rejection is bound to fall?

In fact, one could go so far as to say we downright reject rejection.  It certainly shouldn’t happen to us – but to the ‘other guy.’

And when it does?

It’s often met with a mixture of despair and fault finding.

This fault finding falls into two general equally crippling categories: it’s not my fault  – or – it’s all my fault, I shoulda, coulda.

The Deck Is Stacked Against Me  or How I Pulled the Unfair Card

An ego is a fragile thing and we (and the people who love us) are prone to defending it at all costs.  There’s a particular brand of fault finding we use to make failure and rejection less odious: the unfair card.

How many times, in the face of failure,  have you consoled yourself (or a friend) with the soothing balm of  “unfair and unjust” rewards.

As in: the reason they or you lost out was because someone else simply wasn’t smart enough to see your brilliance.  You are being treated unjustly, punitively or unfairly.   A/K/A: “I am an American Idol and someday you jealous so-and-sos are going to be sorry you didn’t give me a chance.”

Or as in, the odds were completely stacked against me and the game was rigged.  A/K/A: “It was political or nepotism or they wanted someone younger/older/taller/or with a different degree – and just what the heck could I have done about that?”

Then again it could be a series of  life circumstances that unfairly brought you down.  A/K/A: I was sick the day before, I didn’t have enough time, and  the planets weren’t aligned correctly.

I Shoulda, Coulda

But perhaps worst of all is when fault finding comes home to roost.  We believe failure and rejection have occurred because of our own inadequacies.

We have a chronic case of the “if-onlys.” A/K/A: “I shoulda, coulda . . . taken better care of my self, started my degree earlier, or consulted an astrologer.

We lament to ourselves and anyone willing to listen, :”if only, I had or if only I hadn’t” proclamations of guilt and remorse.  Which is generally met with the aforementioned balm of “unfair and unjust” rewards.

Not Unless I Know I Can Win

Is it any wonder then that we sometimes refuse to play if we might not win?

Or why when we do and don’t emerge a winner, we tell ourselves that we just weren’t good enough?

Irrefutable Proof

The good news for us?  All of  this flies in the face of what is statistically rational and irrefutable proof to the contrary.

This past April, Harvard – one of the most prestigious institutes of higher learning – held an open panel discussion entitled, “Reflections on Rejections: An Exploration of Resilience in the Face of Failure.’’ Intended to highlight the importance of mistakes, failures and rejection: the esteemed panel recounted their own and others setbacks in relation to the importance of their own personal and professional growth.

A humorous highlight of the conference was Professor of Statistics Xiao-Li Meng’s  intriguing 2 page Theorem entitled A (Hopefully) Well Accepted Statistical Theory of Rejection.

His Grand Theorem of Rejection?  “Statistically, you are rejected, and probabilistically, it is fair.”

In a nutshell, rejecting rejection might just make you the bigger loser than accepting the fact that in order to win you’re necessarily going to have to lose at something on your way to success.

You can download a PDF of Meng’s Theorem in it’s entirety here.