“It’s not whether you win or lose it’s how you play the game.” We’ve all heard this this expression, while growing up, it was usually told to us after we lost some competition or sporting event. None of us ever believed it. I myself saw through its intention which was simply to make losers feel better about themselves. I however, never subscribed to it as a philosophy by which I wanted to live.

When I was much younger than I am today, the quote that resonated with me was “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” I think it was Vince Lombardi who said that. I believed that healthy competition brought out the best in people and kept us all striving. After all, it’s what helped us build this great nation. But as I got older and hopefully wiser, I recognized the flaw in that sort of thinking. I also saw the dangers that it creates for our culture.

This very mindset that puts winning above all, implies a loose fitting sense of integrity where the rules are easily bent for the greater goal of the win. With a mentality such as this we become egocentric and risk stunting the development of our own empathy. Winning at all costs creates a society in which a sense of entitlement sets the morale code. An ethical approach to winning is therefore very important to teach in a competitive environment.   

As someone who has been competing all her life, I have lost plenty and as I matured, I began to recognize the value in losing. Not only has losing taught me humility and perseverance but it has grounded me to the realities of world; it helped prepare me for the adversities that I would come to face, when life indiscriminately smacked me down. Losing has also allowed me to maintain composure under stress by providing me with the perspective needed to contextualize the loss. In summary, losing builds more character than winning.

Throughout my life, I have observed many who have never learned how to lose. Incidentally, they are also the same people who have never been told “no” which in corporate settings prove to be problematic, time and time again. Learning to lose with dignity and grace speaks volumes about an individual as anyone can seem swell when they are winning. It’s when the chips are down and they are losing that you get a real sense of the kind of person they truly are.

Losing is an instrumental part of evolution and an integral part of the process. We learn life lessons from losing which is critical to our own evolution. Ask any successful person and they will tell you that they learned more from times they lost than from when they won. But losing can be painful, so naturally we would choose winning over losing every time.

But on a deeper note, I have come to learn that placing such a heavy emphasis on winning is also a direct path to unhappiness because in a zero sum world you are also required to constantly tally the scores. Comparing yourself to your friends and neighbors in that manner, will only exacerbate lack. But life isn’t a zero sum game and as such, it truly is about how you play and not whether you win or lose.