Understand that Winning Isn’t Everything—Losing Is
I have lost many things in the professional world. I have lost promotions. I have lost the next great position. I have lost confidence. I have lost my passion at times, and sometimes lost my way. The great news is that there have been very few times that I can remember when things did not work in my favor after a loss. If things did not work out as planned, I at least typically learned a valuable lesson. When I have lost, I have found myself building up my character, or something better has come along. The premise of this book is obviously my transformation based on key lessons during my professional career. This premise is based on many of my losses that really turned into wins—this book being one of them. You have two paths to take when you lose. You can get up and do something about it, or you can lick your wounds and do nothing.
I was asked to apply for a position that many thought I was qualified for in a call center. It was in a place where I had extended family close by, I was willing to relocate, and I had more than fifteen years of call center experience in quite a variety of roles. I was not an expert in the new field I would be entering, but I had taught myself all of the positions in the past and I was eager to learn a new one. The final candidates were narrowed down to three of us for two openings. Can you guess who was ranked number three?
The other two candidates had fifteen or more years in this particular business. I’m sure each of them was qualified for the job and would be great hires. I felt I could have had an advantage and could make a difference by sharing my diverse background, my experience from my other internal businesses, and my objectivity as an outsider to the business. The decision makers didn’t think so.
I was upset after learning I did not get the job, but, knew I had to do something positive about the experience. Instead of accepting the statement, “You didn’t get the job” at face value, I dug in deeper with the decision maker. I learned through his feedback that I needed to sell my diverse background, my experience level, and creative objectivity better during the interviews. I was told I could have also networked more effectively in preparation for the interview process, and prepared differently. The difference with this lesson was that I stayed on the phone and had a real conversation about what I needed to do better the next time. I was asking questions and genuinely felt good after the conversation, reassured that I had been well thought of throughout the process, but I had room to improve for the next time. What I was beginning to realize was that the “next time” was all around me if I kept my eyes wide open.
Three days later, I heard about a brand new position that was in the works to increase employee retention. I proactively went after it. I produced a clear plan of attack to address the issue, spoke to the appropriate people about my interest, and utilized my background to effectively sell the point that I could build bridges across multiple businesses to expand the impact of the work. I didn’t realize I would get to implement the feedback I had just received so quickly. I was given the job and taught a valuable lesson: certain things happen for a reason. I did have control of my career and could make a bigger impact to the overall company in my new role.
In another example, as an avid speech competitor with Toastmasters International, I have learned that competing helped to prepare me for the most stressful situations. The competitions also taught me how to clearly engage an audience for a short period of time, and showed me how to send a message that the audience would remember for a long time. I enjoy the challenge of these contests.
As I became more successful in the contests, I realized I needed to learn from my more-experienced fellow competitors. In addition to picking up many tips and learning how to broaden my style, I also learned to lose. Losing speech competitions was a great thing to push me to write a better speech, to prepare differently, and to get more people involved in the overall process by offering their input for the next competition. I knew I could always be better.
In the International Speech contest in the spring of 2010, I was the only competitor in my club who was available to continue in the next competition. I knew going in I would ‘win’ by default. I had practiced for over a month. You’ll notice that I didn’t say I prepared well for over a month. I practiced a speech that lacked a clear message for the audience. I finished in third place, out of three people. To increase the intensity of my loss, I found out that the second place finisher forgot he was in the competition until that day, and only practiced for forty-five minutes.
I was forced to re-write my speech. Apparently, the weekend of the next contest must have been a bad date, because only two of us were there. Again, the top two progressed on to the next level. I had no idea if the changes I made worked or if I moved on by default again. I was not going to leave it up to the unknown. I asked everyone I knew what they thought. I presented the speech to my club more times than they probably wanted. I gave the speech as a guest to a club in Florida while I was traveling on business. I invested time each day on my week-long vacation with the family to fine tune my message. I interjected myself into a company meeting to spend seven minutes giving the speech because there was a large gathering of people. Everyone had an opinion, and I listened to them all. I placed second in the next contest and moved on to the regional finals. The final competitive speech of the season went well, even though I did not win the competition. However, I did win by gaining valuable experience and lessons. By losing, I had won. I lost to some fantastic speakers who gave me the encouragement to continue to drive myself. I was a better speaker, a better networker, and a more confident individual because of this experience. All of these lessons would prove to pay off in future competitions and within the workplace.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
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MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby