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  • John R. Durant

Wins, Losses, and Learning

Memories of a victory usually fade faster than those related to the struggles and failures that preceded it.

Some of you know that I was the first roadie and live-sound engineer for an 80’s pop music group that ultimately gained worldwide fame and a Grammy nomination. As I sit here in my office at home, there is an official gold record hanging just above my computer. While it is certainly an outward symbol of what the world considers “winning,” it signifies something different in my mind. It represents the growth and unity that can be gained during struggle, loss, and failure.

Chief Mistake Officers rebound from failure stronger than ever
Moments of victory mean less than the preceding struggles

Always another show

The band’s members are from a large family of generous and talented people. Just a few weeks ago, about half of all of us and our families gathered for the holidays (80+ people). As typically happens when we are together, we reminisced while dozens from the younger generations laughed, played, and ate enough food to feed a small army. The next day, as I reflected on the evening, I was struck by how much we had talked about the days when we struggled. We had swapped compelling tales of bad gigs, broken instruments, frustrating rehearsals, and the times that the van we traveled in barely made it to the next show. What we have never talked about—not once—is the moment that RIAA presented the band members with gold and platinum album awards. I am not saying that those were not important achievements, but the glory of those victorious moments is not nearly as interesting as the many struggles and failures that preceded them.


I believe that the primary reason is this: there is little to be learned in the bestowal of the trophy, award, or ribbon. That experience offers no legitimate chance for real growth and change. Ironically, these moments of victory usually receive the most attention. In contrast, the preceding years of sacrifice, suffering, failure, and loss are where the most meaningful things occurred. And, with similar irony, they are usually the least televised and celebrated episodes-- if they receive any attention at all. The same can be said for the difficult days that follow when our formerly bright star finally fades.

It's the losses

A new acquaintance recently asked me about the path of my career. I answer such requests with greater humility and maturity than I would have even several years ago. Looking back at our chat, I realize that much of what I had shared had to do with what I learned through what I would call my “losses”. I had shared comparatively far less about my successes, awards, or so-called accolades. While I don’t wish to diminish those, I felt no desire to dwell on them, and they stand out less prominently in my memories. It seems I'm not alone.

The other day, I was listening to an interview with sports analyst Jason Whitlock, and he said the following about his experience playing football at high school and collegiate levels:

I am not suggesting for an instant that we improperly dwell on losses, woefully flagellating ourselves because of our failures. That is obviously not a healthy behavior. Rather, what I am saying is that most of our learning is in the losses. And that learning is what can lead to our bright moments of victory.

The way forward

As we look ahead in 2021 and beyond, each of us will have losses. Count on it, and don't be surprised. They are part of the process of becoming. Perhaps as more than just a side-note, allow me to remind us that this is as true in our own lives as it is in the lives of the people around us. Put another way: we aren't the only ones experimenting in the very hands-on lab of life. This leads to more trenchant questions. What would happen if we collectively resolved to look at the imperfect people around us as individuals engaged in their own learning process? Do we offer others the same kind of forbearance, patience, and understanding that we expect to receive? Let us look back on the memories of our struggles and losses with greater appreciation for what those experiences really were: the process of our growth. Then, let us look at others and their losses and failures with fresh eyes, sharpened by compassion and understanding.

© Growthsight, LLC 2021


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