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Learning not Losing

By July 26, 2021December 9th, 2021No Comments

How do you adapt to a “learning” mindset instead of a “losing” one?

From an early age, we are taught that losing is an undesirable outcome. As children, we never want to be the last to cross the finish line. This becomes detrimental to our development when the fear of losing causes us to not join the race at all. 

I believe that one way to get better at managing the fear of losing is to decide to view failures as an opportunity to learn. Imagine if children learned that instead of “the last place” it was “the learning zone”. How would this change our perception as adults? 

Sara Blakely, founder, and CEO of Spanx says that her father encouraged failure in her and her siblings when she was growing up. At family dinners her father would ask “what have you failed at this week?” and he would only be disappointed if his children had not failed at something. In doing this, he redefined failure as not trying, not the outcome. 

As adults, we often create internal ranking systems to track our progress. Perhaps it is based on your salary, the size of your home, how many friends you have, and how many vacations you take. It could be based on physical appearance, perceived happiness, or how many awards you have won. Regardless of what scale you use to judge your self-worth, if it is done against others or what you perceive of them you will never feel as if you are “winning”. 

Self-worth has to come from within. 

Everyone has their mountains to climb, challenges to overcome, and goals that they have set.  When you decide to judge your climbing skills against others you risk destroying your self-worth based on your encounters with failure. 

When you decide to take every steep hill of your climb as a chance to learn, to grow, and to evolve for yourself, you cannot lose. Because the next time you set your sights on a mountain you will be confident in the skills you have learned from past experiences.  

Perhaps the mountain you are climbing right now is a new job and no matter how hard you try you do not feel like you are enough. Taking on new responsibilities and tasks often requires a steep learning curve. If the mistakes you make while adjusting to your new role cause you to doubt yourself and your abilities you may find it challenging to move forward. If this is the case, you have not transformed your failures into lessons, and these perceived failures will limit your future success. 

Your perception can limit your potential because you lose trust in yourself and your abilities, and you may not be willing to take on new challenges as a result.

When you change your perspective you will take on tasks without the fear of failing because you will trust that the lessons you learned have taught you the skills you need to be successful. 

If you fail again, you can learn again. Here is how: 

Fail fast and fail forward 

Fail then learn, then fail again, and learn again. Soon you will have internalized a process that will consistently make you better and stronger. This process can be made easier with the support of peers, mentors, or professionals. Seek out individuals with whom you can trust to have vulnerable conversations about your personal development. Samuel Johnson said, “Often people need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed”. If you are struggling to recognize your value, seek a reminder from someone who understands the challenges you are facing. There is no shame in asking for help. 

Brené Brown discusses how shame can be detrimental to all aspects of our lives. Shame is a powerful feeling and facing it can be a daunting task. The harder you examine your shame the more willing your mind will be to find the lesson. Brown stresses the importance of showing up imperfectly not perfectly. 

“Vulnerability is not about winning, it is not about losing. It is about showing up and being seen” -Bréne Brown

Consistently showing up will enable improvement and you will eventually reach the summit of your mountain. 

Choosing to see your experiences as losing is what I believe defines a true failure. When you realize the only person you were ever competing with was yourself you create opportunities for constant self-improvement. Just like Sara Blakely’s dad taught her, failure is not the outcome, the failure is when you don’t try at all. 

I believe in learning, not losing.

Written by Jess Orchin

Gasparotto Group helps organizations create cultures that develop highly effective leaders and build strong, resilient teams.