Why losing is never really losing…

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Sure, we all want to be winners, but do you understand why losing is never really losing?

By Ann Gomez

Whether or not you’re a basketball fan, it’s worth paying close attention to how Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks answered a question about failure after his team was eliminated from the NBA playoffs in 2023.

Sports experts favoured Milwaukee to win against Miami in the first round of the playoffs, and they led by 16 points in the 4th quarter of Game 5 — but they lost in overtime.

In the post-game news conference, reporters ask Antetokounmpo: Was this season a failure?

His outstanding response is worth sharing with sports fans of all ages — and anyone, at any age and stage, who has strived to achieve a goal and fallen short.

“Every year, you work toward something, a goal,” he said. “It’s not a failure. It’s steps to success. Michael Jordan played 15 years and won six championships. Were the other nine years a failure? There’s no failure in sports. There are good days and bad days. Some days you are successful. Some days it’s your turn. Some days it’s not your turn. You don’t always win. And this year, somebody else is going to win. Simple as that. It’s all steps to success.”

In delivering his response, Antetokounmpo displays the opposite effect of “gain framing”, which shows the pain of a loss is often more psychologically powerful than a gain of the same intensity. “In real life” gain framing is best shown by the silver medalist who is less happy than a bronze medalist. When the stakes of a loss are higher than those of gains, we become very sensitive to a loss. The bronze medalist is happy to be on the podium, while the silver medalist laments their loss and feels it more deeply.

Back on the basketball court, when faced with the dreary question about his team’s loss, Antetokounmpo instead reframes the loss as an opportunity to learn and grow.

And that is a champion’s mindset. We win — or we gain valuable experience — and we learn how to do better next time.

Learning is an iterative process and often messy in the beginning. We’ll stumble and make mistakes along the way, but any action we take toward a goal gives us the gift of hindsight we didn’t have before.

This does not mean we should adopt a laissez-faire approach to our work and life. Of course, we don’t set out to make mistakes. We always have positive intentions. We put forth a tremendous effort, follow the process and check all the details.

But when things don’t go our way, we don’t waste valuable energy regretting the past.

Regret is a costly energy expenditure. It leads to chronic stress, negatively affecting our hormonal and immune system function. When we dwell on life’s disappointments, we are effectively extending the long-term impact of these setbacks.

Rick Newman, author of Rebounders, views setbacks as opportunities to create a breakthrough moment in our lives. Like Antetokounmpo, Newman says: “Setbacks can be a secret weapon. They often teach vital things you’ll never learn in school, on the job or from others.”

Every time we step into the unknown, we risk stumbling. But the people who thrive recognize our stumbles don’t take us back to square one.

After a setback we gain invaluable experience, resources, skills, and insight we need to face our next challenge.

You may not see it right away, but it’s likely what you perceive as a failure today is a step toward a winning future. And tomorrow it will be your turn.

For more strategies you can use to set yourself up for success, see Ann’s latest book, Workday Warrior: A Proven Path to Reclaiming Your Time, published by Dundurn Press, 2022.


This is the final column in the Productive Writer series by Ann Gomez. Our thanks to Ann for taking the time to share her profound insights over the last 40 weeks. Stay tuned for next Wednesday, when we’ll be launching a new column featuring interviews with people of interest to writers. Our first guest? Ann Gomez!



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