If you asked one hundred college or pro coaches and athletes, fifty would say that you learn nothing from losing and fifty would tell you that it’s where they gained their deepest insights.
I tend to agree with the ‘learning from losing’ camp and will back it up with some good examples. Here are two of them:
My friend Craig Kearney shared with his Integrity Selling class recently that he and some buddies had a terrific way to make money to help pay tuition and expenses at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. “None of the dorm rooms had carpeting, so freshmen had to buy pieces of carpet at a nearby store for an outrageous price. My friends and I grabbed piles of used ones that were discarded at the end of the spring term and hauled them to the basement of the house we were renting. It was tedious work for several days. We cleaned them, scrubbed them, rolled them up, and piled them up. In the fall, we knew that we would make a bundle selling them at half the price as the store.”
It was a great idea in principle. The rug entrepreneurs marketed their pieces of carpeting by printing a one-page handout and slipping it under the door of every freshmen door room the night before they were to move in. The next day they pulled up lawn chairs in their front yard and waited rather smugly for the greenbacks to roll in. They would soon be rewarded for their sweat and creative thinking.
Or would they?
Not one person showed up to the consternation of the enterprising young businessmen.
“I couldn’t stand it anymore so I went over to the dorms to see if we had been undercut by the store or what?”
It was THEN that Kearney et al discovered that for the first time in the school’s history, Drake had carpeted the dorm rooms! There was no need or market for their wares.
“I learned a great lesson.” explained Craig (to the laughter of the Integrity Selling class), “Going forward, I will always do my research before investing time, money and energy into the product. That’s a lesson I’ll never forget.”
My friend Rob, a professional speaker (www.robspeaks.com), tells of one of his first days on the job at a supermarket in Wisconsin. They sent him to the store with two bags of cash and checks to deposit. He set them both on the roof of the car as he reached for his keys and headed off to the bank. Upon arrival, he discovered that he had left them on the roof and they were long gone by the time he reached his destination.
“Through panic, embarrassment and much searching, the manager and I found one of the bags and he sent me back to work. Shortly thereafter the Big Boss of the entire chain of stores called me into his office. Certain that I was going to be fired, I apologized over and over and admitted to him how dumb I was,” says Bell.
“You’re not dumb. It’s the people who won’t try that bother me. First of all, one of our customers found the other bag and returned it to me. Second, from now on, you will always be the one to take money to the bank!”
My incredulous friend, Rob, was delighted to not be fired and grateful for kindness from Big Boss Man. He was also mystified.
“Why should you be surprised?” asked BBM. “Who is going to take better care of the bank bags than you after what happened today?”
Lessons from losing. Sometimes nothing is a better teacher.
Bill Sheridan—SHERIDAN WRITES, LLC
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