Why Losing Is Better Than Failing…and the Difference

A theme that has been written about over and over again is the idea that you need to seek out failure and attempt things that make you uncomfortable. Working on challenges outside of your comfort zone not only teach you new things, but make you better at the simple act of learning, which is infinitely more important. However, this is a simplified idea that ignores the mechanics of what specific challenges learners will encounter. Josh Waitzkin, a fascinating student of the science of learning and performance has written a book titled The Art of Learning that addresses exactly this topic.

If you are not familiar with Josh, he was a chess prodigy who was the subject of a book and movie titled Searching for Bobby Fischer. I would highly recommend that movie for any who have not seen it. In The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin writes about his own learning process that helped him to win eight National Championships in chess and twenty one National Championships and several World Championships in martial arts. Anyone who can become world class at two such very different disciplines is someone worth listening to.

In one of the chapters, he writes about an incredibly powerful learning technique that I believe ties quite simply not just into business, but also the fields of Sales, Leadership, and personal development in general. Waitzkin calls it Investment in Loss. The core idea behind this principle is that while learning a new technique, we have to let go of ego. We have to be willing to lose. Most importantly let go of our tendency to push back (in the form of martial arts in which he competed, physically pushing back against an opponent’s push was a big mistake; the metaphor works for mentally fighting ideas as well). However, pushing back both physically or mentally stunted the growth and learning process. Very simply, Investment in Loss is the letting go of old habits.

How often are we confronted with something new and different and our immediate reaction is to stand our ground or even push back? How often do you see your coworkers, spouses, or children dothe same? How often are we willing to invest in a loss or two, face rejection from customers and prospects, in order to sharpen our skills and shorten our learning curve? As an energetic management consultant Carl Shoemer demonstrates in his incredible seminar on managing change, when a change is implemented, results immediately dip in the short term. However, this is how you assure your long term success. Those who understand this, fully embrace the downturn, a phenomenon similar to what Josh has termed Investment in Loss. When they reach the point of return on investment, if dwarfs the results of those who have not made any investment at all.

*This post contains affiliate links. But the book is still amazing. Give it a read if you want more info.

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