You win some and you lose some, we all know that. But sometimes a loss feels different. Worse.
While watching an Ohio State Buckeyes game in 2016, the announcer talked about an interview he did with the Buckeyes coach, Urban Meyer, in which Meyer opened up about the 2015 loss to the Michigan State Spartans. I remember that game—the Buckeyes had one of their best teams ever, and they weren’t supposed to lose, not to Michigan State, anyway. The coaches took a lot of the blame for the loss.
What I found most interesting about this interview was when Meyer said he didn’t get over that loss until the summer. The statement seems a little odd, because it was just one game and Ohio State went on to beat both Michigan and Notre Dame by a large margin the two games following the loss.
The Buckeyes had a good year, overall, but they didn’t achieve their ultimate goal of winning another National Championship.
But Urban Meyer is right; some losses just feel different.
On this website, I usually write about ways to motivate yourself, inspire others, improve productivity, and create amazing content. But not everything in business always works out. The clever tactics don’t always succeed. I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t tell this story, too.
This was my Michigan State loss.
It felt like winning the National Championship, then going to the locker room only to be told the winning play didn’t count and you actually lost. I mean, I’ve been around long enough to know that these things happen. I know better than to celebrate prematurely, but we were at a point in the deal when there was just no reason why it shouldn’t have gone through.
The details of this story would take a whole book to tell, so I’ll just summarize. A huge life insurance deal years in the making was finally reaching its end. We were well past the 11th hour at this point, and everyone, both in my group and at other companies, had put so much work into it. I’m talking long hours and interrupted events. It was just this massive, complex undertaking.
At times I wondered if the deal was worth it, but it really felt right. Everything seemed to be moving in the right direction, and anyway, the bulk of the work was done very early on. Even though the process was dragging out for a very long time, after all we’d invested already, we just couldn’t give up.
There was no reason to give up. Prospects just don’t normally take a deal this far and then back out. And even if they do decide at the last minute to make some big changes, they’re not going to back out of the whole thing. It just didn’t seem like a possibility.
So, we finally got the life insurance policy done. Everyone agreed. Everyone thought it was a good decision, a no-brainer decision. Everyone, from the attorney, to the CFO, to the family, to anyone else that had input, they all liked the deal. For ten days, the deal was done.
When someone buys a life insurance policy, they typically have ten days in which they can change their mind. Almost no one ever uses this option, but on the tenth day, this client did. He made a phone call and stated that he’d decided he did not want the life insurance policy anymore–and to refund his premium in full, at once.
When I learned of the news over the phone, I thought the person delivering the news to me was kidding. I honestly thought it was April First. In the deafening silence on the other end of the line, I finally learned that this was no joke. This was real. This case—it was over.
I thought about all the people impacted—my family, my employees, my partners, my associates, my clients, their families, the insurance company…It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. But it did.
When something like this happens, there are a couple of things you can do. You can use the loss to motivate you, treat it as a learning experience. Urban Meyer’s team went on to beat Michigan and beat Notre Dame. You can do the same. You can look at the setback as an opportunity to start over, a challenge to rise to, a reminder to take a good, hard look at yourself and think about what you can do better. You can even use the disappointment as a reminder of what’s really important.
How you handle defeat, on the playing field or in business, is just as important as how you achieve success. What you do when you lose can determine when and how you might win again, and it definitely establishes what kind of person you are.
But this isn’t an article about how to rise from the proverbial ashes, how to twist a setback into an advantage, and how to snatch victory from the sharp claws of defeat. I’ve written articles like that before, and I’ll probably write more of them in the future. They can be very useful.
But even though you can turn failure into success, the failure itself still stings. The loss is still real. Sometimes it just takes until summer (or longer) to get over.