May 30 – Clarifying a bit on the concept of being a loser

“There is no doubt in my mind that there are many ways to be a winner, but there is only one way to be a loser and that is to fail and not look beyond that failure.” (Kyle Rote, Jr.)

Yesterday’s quote was from American Football Hall of Famer Mike Ditka. In his quote, Ditka told us that you are only a loser when you quit trying. The quote yesterday generated some comments back to me discussing whether giving up on something made a person a loser or not. One commenter wrote “I will gladly admit defeat if I’ve tried something whole heartedly and can’t do it. Helps me to better know who I am.” Another said, “This works as long as the goal is within reality of my talents and the times. There is a lesson to be learned about keeping goals within reach.” I think that both commenters have good points, and today’s quote will help me to clarify my thinking on what I wrote yesterday, as well as the commenters’ thoughts.

Both quotes note that simply failing does not make a person a loser, and I think that my commenters would agree on that point. There are many things in life that all of us have tried and failed at. The fact that we tried something which stretched us a bit, or that was more difficult than we’d bargained for is great. The fact that we didn’t reach that level doesn’t make us losers. As one of the commenters put it, knowing defeat in this way helps him to know better who he is. I know from my own experience in life that the boundaries of what I can or cannot do are defined by the things I tried and failed. Without failures now and then, I never know what my limits really are. Said another way, if I always succeed, then I probably am not pushing myself or having much growth.

Trying and failing isn’t being a loser. In fact, if a person always succeeded at everything they attempted, then they would likely be a fairly boring person. I say that because it is exciting to try new things and test the limits. Always staying safely in the comfort zone isn’t particularly exciting.

What Rote is getting at here is an important point. He states that to be a loser, one has to not only fail, but also fail to look beyond the failure. A person becomes a loser when they fail, but learn nothing from it, and don’t profit from the experience.

Yesterday I included these sentences in my closing paragraph, “I prefer never to think of myself as having been a loser at anything in life. There are some things that I just haven’t won at yet. One day, I will pick those things back up and do what it takes to be successful.” When I wrote that, there were some fairly specific things I had in mind. They are projects or achievements that I attempted, that I really do wish to come back and try again. I think that was too narrow a point of view. With the advantage of another day to reflect, and to think about the comments I received, I realize that there are indeed times in my life when I have just admitted defeat gladly, and moved on. I don’t consider myself a loser for those circumstances, and neither would these two readers of mine. In those cases where I tried and failed, and have no intention of going back, I did learn a valuable lesson about my limits and who I am.

The second commenter above makes another good point about attainability of goals. I have written several times on how I am goal-oriented, and how I use SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound), for everything from weight loss, to work objectives and home projects. And her point about measuring success or failure in light of whether the goal is attainable is right. If we are going to measure success and failure only in terms of achieving the goal, then the goal has to be attainable. But also, to be interesting in life, and to test our boundaries, we sometimes have to reach for goals that may be unattainable.

One last thought for the day on the term “loser”. With the exception of sports, where winners and losers are the norm, I really don’t like the term. To me there is a connotation that comes with it that the defeat somehow defines the person. To me the term “loser” seems fatalistic. I don’t think that anyone is ever really a loser in life. We all have defeats and tragedies in life, but those don’t define us as losers.

The great thing about this writing project is that it makes me reflect every day on what I think about things in life. And the beauty of writing every day is that I can, from time to time, refine my thinking with the next day’s post.

To those of you who are kind enough to read my thoughts, THANK YOU! I truly appreciate and am humbled by the idea that there are people out there who think my writing is worth reading. I appreciate the comments and feedback from all, so feel free to comment anytime.

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