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Yeah Sure, Losing Sucks! But…

Let’s face it, nobody likes to lose. Sure we can all handle a loss once in a while, but over and over again…that’s hard to take.

But how do we define winning and losing? Therein lays the secret to identifying success.

I have a short story to highlight what I truly believe.

Flashback to 1989. I was 17 years old living the good life of a Grade 12 student. I was asked by our Athletic Department if I would like to be a student co-coach for the Midget (Grade 9) basketball team. I accepted and took on the challenge with a teammate of mine. What an absolutely amazing experience. Learning real organizational, motivation and coaching skills…and I was not even out of high school yet. I remained the co-coach into the next season when the boys were in Grade 10…same group of kids.

Sounds great, right?

Here’s the thing. During those 2 seasons, we only won about 3 or 4 games…at the most! We were losing games by margins of 20-30 points at times. It ranks as one of the most challenging experiences of my life…but also the best.

Here’s why.

Not one of those kids ever gave up…ever. They showed up for practice on time. They worked hard. They never, ever gave up. Each one of them improved by the end of the season, learning new skills, and kept playing basketball. On one particular occasion, a coach from the other team approached me after the game. I’ll never forget what he said to me: “Tim, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more dedicated bunch of kids.”

I asked one of the boys (younger brother of my friend) if he was frustrated by our track record or if he was discouraged by all of our losses. He said to me “Yeah sure, losing sucks. But I love playing basketball and you’re a great coach.”

It doesn’t get much better than that.

I believe that many people view success like this:

Winning = Success

But I try to view it like this:

Happy = Success

What’s the point in winning all the time if you’re not happy? Besides, you will likely see more wins by being happy. Sure, losing can encourage people to try harder. However, one should try harder to be happy – not trying to win in the hopes that it will make you happy.

How do you view success? What about your employees or teams? As an HR professional or business leader, how do you deal with conflicting views among your teams?

I’d like to believe that those young basketball players were viewing success like the latter.

I know I do…


  1. Hi Tim, I really like this post and the notion of truly defining what success means to you. I used to think it was based on achievements, but reaching great heights did not necessarily equal greater life satisfaction.

    From the HR perspective, we have the unique advantage of being able to see how multiple teams view success and there are so many different views and paradigms which can lead to conflicting priorities. Honing in on what success means organizationally and translating that down into what you do every day has strong power. It can be a great starting point as the mobilizing “call to action” when communicating business plans and objectives.

    Great food for thought!
    Leena Malik

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