A couple of weekends ago, I got invited to watch a friend’s daughter compete in the National American Miss pageant. I’ve known this young lady since she was a toddler, and over the years I’ve watched her blossom into an awesome little woman. She’s bright, energetic, savvy, and beautiful to boot. You know, one of those kids that makes you feel confident about what the next generation will be able to do with their infinite potential. So I was thrilled to join her parents in the audience to hoot and holler like a madwoman whenever she appeared on the stage.
That night, we watched all the contestants do their opening numbers and have their individual moments in the spotlight. We also watched watch as girl after girl got picked for various and sundry titles – Miss Congeniality, Most Likely to be a Top Model, Most Likely to End Up as a Trophy Wife and Get One Helluva Divorce Settlement when the Dog of a Husband Gets Caught Cheating (or something like that). Even with all her charm, poise, and intelligence, our girl didn’t get a single trophy or accolade, and she didn’t even get to move on to the next round of competition. Needless to say, we were crushed. She, of course, was even more crushed. After she’d changed back into her street clothes, she joined us to head to the car. She held up pretty well for a few moments, then the tears came. “It isn’t fair,” she cried. “They weren’t as good as me!” she protested. And we agreed, clucking over her and consoling her like dutiful supporters. There wasn’t any use in trying to rationalize the outcome of the pageant to her. Even if there had been a rational explanation, it likely wouldn’t have made a dent on her emotional state. So, I thought that the words her mother offered her were the best that could be said at that moment. She simply told her daughter, “Baby, it wasn’t your time.”
No doubt, losing sucks. Hard. Especially when it’s something you’ve worked hard to get, or something you feel like you’re naturally more qualified to have. So when you don’t land that job, or you get passed over by that girl or guy you had your heart set on, or someone else snags that grand opportunity that you know was meant for you, it makes you want to scream at the top of your lungs, “It’s not fair! They weren’t as good as me!” It’s irritating as hell to see the lesser-qualified get your moment in the spotlight, with the crowd cheering and the fair maiden planting a wreath of laurel leaves on their unworthy head. When it happens more than once, you may stop screaming outwardly and start whispering inwardly to yourself: “Maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe I don’t know what I’m doing. Maybe no one will ever want me.” Even the most confident and self-assured person has their moments of uncertainty when met with a consistent stream of losses.
I thought back to one of the girls in the pageant who had advanced to the next round that evening. It was her fifth year in the competition, and she’d never made it beyond the first round before. Yet she kept showing up every year. Kept donning the glitzy gown, kept flashing the perfect camera-ready smile, and kept being sent home with nothing to show for her efforts. I wondered what she must have felt like after two years of not winning. After year three? I wondered how she even mustered up the energy and optimism it took to come back for one more chance at winning, though she was a repeat loser. By the colloquial definition, this girl was insane. She kept doing the same thing and expecting a different result. But eventually, after five long years, she did get a different result.
So how exactly do you distinguish the insane person from the winner-to-be?
“Sometimes losing is a wake-up call in disguise, a universal conspiracy that’s letting you know that you’re chasing the wrong dream…”
Winners recognize that there may not be any logic to the fact that they lost, but they take the loss as an opportunity for assessment. A time to prepare themselves for the win that will inevitably come. After a loss, winners ask themselves the following questions:
Am I losing because I’m playing the wrong game?
If you’re going after something that doesn’t align with your purpose or your true values, why would you want to win? Sometimes losing is a wake-up call in disguise, a universal conspiracy that’s letting you know that you’re chasing the wrong dream, and you need to set your eyes on a different, more fitting prize. If you feel certain that what you’re after does align with your purpose, it’s much easier to deal with temporary losses on the way to your goal.
Am I losing because I’m not yet prepared to win?
If you were to get that job, land that cutie pie, or be granted that opportunity, are you currently prepared to make the most of it? Do you have the skills to maintain the thing you’ve won after you’ve won it? You’ve heard the stories of lottery winners who are penniless only a few years after their big win, because they had no money management skills. It’s almost impossible to believe, but it happens all the time – and not just with the lottery. Winners take time after a loss to continue to hone their skills. They visualize what they’ll need to do after the win to make sure they’re ready to perform when it happens. Winners know that a gift given to the ill-prepared can easily become a curse.
Am I losing because it just isn’t my time?
So you know for sure that you’re after the right thing. And you know that you’re well-prepared to maintain that thing after you’ve won it. So what gives? Why do you keep losing? Well baby, maybe it just isn’t your time. While you’re fuming about how unfair it all is, maybe there’s someone else out there who had just as much right to the ‘big win’ as you did. They may have waited longer or worked harder, or maybe it was simply ‘their time’. Maybe you’re like that year-five winner, and you’ll have to lose many times before you win. Just remember to re-assess, re-equip, and reapply yourself… even if everyone else thinks you’re insane.
As it turns out, our girl made it through the pageant ordeal without too much emotional or ego damage. After a post-pageant dinner out, she was mostly back to normal. The following week, she got an unexpected phone call. It came from a talent scout who’d seen her at the pageant and wanted to know if she was available for other opportunities.
So let that be a lesson to all you losers out there. The next time you lose, go ahead and have a good cry, check to make sure the makeup is still ok, then treat yourself to something tasty.
And know this… your day is coming. Maybe even sooner than you think.