Lessons From My Dad: Learn How to Lose Gracefully

At 18, my Dad jumped out of plane over Normandy on D-Day. He returned from the war to sell shoes at the May Company for $3 an hour while he took computer classes during the day. Forty years later he had his own software business and shoe stores. He was my hero and the smartest person I ever met.

One of the lessons he taught me growing up was to accept rejection and lose gracefully. He said, “Son, anyone can win. The test of a man’s character is how he handles losing.” This article originally appeared in my monthly newsletter, and attracted so much attention I decided to expand on it and give a few examples.

Not Everybody Gets to be Earl Anthony – Most people would say Earl Anthony was the greatest bowler of all time. I know because at 18 I was a top notch professional bowler. Top ten in California. When I graduated to the Professional Bowlers Tour at the national level, I was not in the top 100. Maybe not in the top 200. In the first three tournaments I got my head handed to me. Rather that cry and moan and stomp my feet, I quietly retreated to California to pursue a college degree and a vocation. You have to accept loss with dignity, learn from the experience, and move on. Oh yes, I got a degree, and MBA, was with a company that went public on the NASDAQ, another one that was acquired by IBM and owned a successful Executive Recruiting company for 13 years. So when someone told me God had a bigger plan for me, they were right.

We’ll Get ‘Em Next Time – Many years ago I started buying race horses with my friend Sean. Never wanted a Ferrari of $5MM house on the hill, however I always loved the grace and beauty of horses and wanted to own one. Great hobby; terrible investment. What you find out pretty quickly in horse racing is that…it’s a horse race. Sometimes they just don’t show up. California Chrome was even money in the $12MM Pegagus at Gulfstream recently. Up the track. Who knows why. It’s horse race. Rather than cry and whine when our horse does not win, our favorite saying is, “We’ll get ’em next time!”

In Sales, You Can’t Win Them All – Originally I was a technology executive, however somewhere along the way I moved over to sales. The first and most important lesson I learned in sales was not to be offended when people treated me poorly and/or did not return my calls. Most people are self-focused. Unless you have a value proposition that appeals to them right here, right now, they dismiss you. You can’t lose your mind every time you lose a deal. There are times as a Headhunter that I place candidates I never thought I could. Other times I lose deals I was convinced were closed. The trick is to stay level and not get emotional. Realize you can’t win every deal (I would take 50%!).

Candidates and Sour Grapes – Wish I had $20 for every one of my candidates that didn’t get a job offer and responded with, “That is a lousy company and I would not work for there anyway.” Bahahahahahaha! First, I only represent the “A” companies, so for sure that statement is not accurate. Second, everything happens for a reason. There are a dozen reasons candidates don’t get a job offer, and most have NOTHING to do with the candidate. On many occasions it’s because there were multiple great candidates, and the hiring company LIKED one candidate better. That’s right, companies hire people they LIKE. The best candidate does not always the get the job. Maybe the hiring manager hired a buddy. Yep, happens all the time. Possibly the company was looking for a specific skill the candidate did not have. Regardless, always accept the loss with grace and tell the Recruiter, “Very grateful for the opportunity.” That is what “A” executives do.

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