Learning to Lose Like an Olympic Athlete

Abundance Growth mindset Personal leadership


Key Point: There are far more “losers” than winners at the Olympics. Of course in the grand scheme of life, and even according to the Olympic code, there are no losers among these elite, world-class athletes… But learning to lose is a very important part of a competitor’s development process. And not all these top athletes will handle losing and the disappointment of not winning a medal very well. Jason Dorland, a Canadian rower was part of the 1988 eight man rowing crew that came in sixth in Seoul, South Korea after winning the gold at the previous Olympics. The country was vocal about being let down. Dorland went into a negative funk and when he returned to rowing a year later, he focused on anger, revenge, fear of losing and redemption. That motivation didn’t work and his comeback fizzled out. In his book Chariots and Horses: Life Lessons from an Olympic Rower, Dorland addresses losing and winning. So, how does this apply to the work place?

I have seen people really struggle with “losing” at work. Most of us will run into hurdles and disappointments in our career. How will we react when we hit the wall? Or fall from a perch? Some of us might become bitterly disappointed when we don’t get the promotion we think we deserve. As an example, the elusive Vice President title has caused a lot of deep angst. And sometimes a negative attitude becomes norm. Do you lose well?

Character Move:

  1. The key to losing well is rededicating oneself to doing the best work ever and increasing our personal performance. Having a clear purpose and mission regarding our contribution is more important than wanting to show others that they are wrong.  
  2. It is important to let go of any “negative” motivation. Pouting, blaming, hating, and wanting to pummel our competitors will likely minimize rather than increase our chances of success. It is about creating value and not just beating someone else.
  3. Ironically, focusing on the journey and contribution/value we create will likely propel us to what we want. We have to fail to get better. Accept that where you are is just a temporary stop or detour.
  4. The importance of the journey is to never really arrive. Winning is about continuous self-development and much more important than beating someone else or getting revenge. Accept set backs as learning milestones and go forward.

Losing well in The Triangle,