I play chess. Not at the Grandmaster level, but well enough to enjoy the game. Of course I prefer to win, but while recently watching a match slip through my fingers, it hit me: I learn a lot more when I lose.
Shortcomings–even failures–can be great teachers. And the surest method I’ve found for getting every ounce of value from those experiences is to focus on what comes next … after the defeat.
It’s sadly common to find some other person or circumstance to blame. In chess it could be that the opponent has more time to study or owns better instructional books. On the job, the excuse might be that a colleague didn’t get back to me or a competitor acted unfairly. These approaches lead nowhere, because they put us in a victim role, with little or no way to change the predicament and thus the results.
If instead, I take responsibility, it becomes clear that the amount of effort I invest in chess, or improving any other part of my individual or professional self, is up to me.
Serious chess players record the moves of their games, using cryptic markings like dxe4, 0-0, etc. This provides a chance to later review and see where better decisions could have occurred. Patterns emerge which become warning signs for future situations. Specific weaknesses are revealed, leading to precisely directed study. Areas where effort can be exerted for maximum impact are made clear.
Likewise, recurring problems in any of life’s roles should be analyzed. What will I do when I face a similar challenge again? Do I need more education in a particular area? How can I best spend my time to realize my full potential?
Showing the recorded games to a stronger player or coach and asking for feedback is helpful as well. Likewise, it is wise to find someone who exhibits the personal and/or business characteristics and final outcomes we want and ask how he or she got there. Giving that person permission to speak into our lives, making recommendations and even pointing out shortcomings, can lead to powerful change.
As I discovered on the 64 squares of the chess board, losing isn’t all bad. When I win a game, I feel great. When I lose, however, I have the opportunity to improve. There’s value, therefore, in both.