We live in a success-orientated world but, in reality, almost all of us are going to fail somewhere in our working careers. So, should we be teaching ‘How to Lose’ at school and preparing young people for the fact that they won’t always succeed?
In the UK we tend to avoid the subject of failure. Fear of failure is a powerful corporate discipline and can be an important driver on the road to success but we’ve all failed, made wrong choices, been fired or had projects and ideas rejected. It doesn’t make you feel great bur rejection can actually make you more determined.
Regardless of age and experience, we all have to be prepared to lose. When dealing specifically with young people though we have to consider some of the additional pressures they face. They can be more open with their emotions so feelings of happiness when things go well and sadness when they don’t are heightened. They can be very competitive and the idea that they haven’t won could become an inhibiting factor on their performance and lead to them not trying or working as hard because they are scared that they may fail or fall behind their classmates.
Losing is therefore, a vital skill for young people to learn. When they go to interviews and don’t get offered the job, they need to learn that they’re second at best. If they struggle in the workplace and feel they’re not succeeding as they think they should or meet people who are smarter, better qualified or simply better connected, then they need to deal with the feeling that they are somehow losing.
It can be hard though. Losing makes us feel frustrated, disappointed and angry, it makes us question our decisions and performance, think through our mistakes, consider perceived inequalities and look for the reasons why we lost so we can find immediate solutions. At time like these its important to reflect on our actions to see the mistakes we made, the errors we could eliminate and the things we could do better. Dwelling on things we can’t control is pointless though, so it’s more effective to focus on the things we can improve and remember the only thing we can control and alter is our own performance.
We all want success but building character and grace in defeat is also essential so maybe it’s common sense to prime young people for failure as early as possible, while still encouraging and nurturing their individual talents. No-one is perfect so everyone is going to lose at some point in their lives and what we, and they, need to do is turn the negatives into something we can learn from and improve on – to work and develop in order to succeed.