Tuesday 2¢: Are you losing to win?

The title might suggest a Godin’esque insightful pithy post or some Garyvee hustle porn suggesting you are wasting your life on Netflix, talking to your family or playing video games and should work harder.

Well, if you’ve read anything of mine, or even talked to me I can’t do pithy and the inspiration for this is I’ve not been hustling I’ve been playing FIFA, the video game, on the Xbox with my youngest daughter.

I’ve been playing iterations of FIFA longer than we have had our children. My daughter Mya recently hit 16 and has suddenly got a taste for football (OK.. OK.. soccer) after a life of indifference to her father’s passion. I’m taking no credit for this, I’m assuming some influence from her school chums, but I’ll take it no questions asked. She tries to watch every live game on TV (or records them), has become a student of the game and has also taken an interest in playing FIFA with her Dad.

When Mya gets interested in something, she is a voracious learner. Once on a flight to a family holiday, the steward asked about the notebook and books she had open, asking about her homework. But, no this was not homework, she was teaching herself Korean. The steward’s reaction was lovely. 

When I play FIFA, which is very occasionally these days, I do enough to win against the computer on the medium difficulty level, I’ve pretty much played the same fairly simple way for years.

When Mya plays she is learning how to do better, she wants to master the tricks and moves and sets herself targets to do that, in the process she is making mistakes and losing the games we play against each other as my simple way works for me. Yes, she likes to win, but she’ll lose and become a better FIFA player.

I might be winning the games now, but as she becomes a better player my winning days are numbered. And not just because she’s a teenager and I’m middle-aged, but because she’s been learning, she’s not playing for the instant win, but the long game.

Soon her fingers will deftly work the button combinations to mean her virtual player will skillfully shield the ball, do a quick Cruyff turn and score with a bending shot from 18 yards out, while I haven’t developed and will hammer the B button in a vain attempt to tackle. 

Yes, playing games is trivial and maybe some of you would suggest I should encourage her to hit the books and I should be hustling more to win more clients for my business, but aside from the joy of quality time together, watching her approach suggested to me a metaphor for life and it’s not just that we can learn stuff from our kids.

We are not all constantly winning, but if we are losing we should be learning in the process. 

It’s not a unique insight, there are many great quotes that remind us that we should reflect back positively and learn from our mistakes, but observing my daughter got me thinking a little differently, about intentionally thinking forward about what you could learn from a situation that could have you potentially losing at something. 

We beat ourselves up about making the right decisions, taking the right jobs, choosing the right client projects or whatever drives our personal goals. We often enter into things with trepidation, nervous that we’ve made the right decision, but if we think about what we could learn even if we lose, then we win.   

And sometimes when it seems we are winning on one metric, a well-paying job or client, for example, we are really losing, maybe the quality of the work is diminished, or it impacts some other part of our life – but the learning metric could maintain the balance.

I worked for a while at a big agency, which was a bit of a career diversion from where I was at the time and could have been described as not a winning move, as it became clear we were not a great fit for each other and wanted different things.  At the time it felt like losing, but in retrospect, it was an experience that has really stood me great stead since, especially when I became a CMO working with agency vendors and of course in my consulting work. I met some fabulous people (a few I hired as vendors when they spun off their own agencies) and learned a great deal about the creative agency process and how these businesses tick. I found myself in a situation and learned from it which helped me “win” later and is a part of my career that I’m now proud of.

Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win

Recognize that? Now very, very, very few people share my view of “White Men Can’t Jump” as a classic movie, if you do remember that line, I’d love to buy you a beer – but in that movie, Rosie Perez’s character said it best:

Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic mechanism, from which one extracts what one needs.”.

Rosie Perez playing Gloria Clemente in White Men Can’t Jump

If are losing, learn for the next win.