HomeOpinion & AnalysisYou win some, you lose some

You win some, you lose some

Imagine what it would be like if a headmaster very proudly announced to the parents of his school that the teachers were only covering half of the curriculum — how would the parents and indeed the pupils feel? Imagine if a sports coach said he was only going to concentrate on attack (and not defence) — how would the players and the supporters feel? Imagine how a child would feel if we only showed her half a film or only read half a book? There would be uproar! You would face a harming, attacking, appalling, fearing, enraging person.

by Tim Middleton

Mighty Warriors celebrate a win. While it is good to win, losing is not that bad, it helps to stimulate new strategies.
Mighty Warriors celebrate a win. While it is good to win, losing is not that bad, it helps to stimulate new strategies.

In contrast, we would prefer to see a “‘charming, attractive, appealing, endearing, engaging” person, the type of person that is described in that beautiful, if old-fashioned, word “winsome”. We should all want to be winsome. And how do we become winsome? It is simple. To become winsome you just need to win some; in other words, you do not win all! If you win everything, you are only doing half the curriculum, winning, yet the curriculum must also include losing. Children (and adults, let us not pretend) need to learn how to win and how to lose. To win some, you need to lose some. Of course, we do not suggest you go out to lose, but we do need to realise that there is as much value in losing as in winning. We cannot only do half the curriculum.

The main reason why it is necessary to lose some to be winsome is because for the most part, people do not learn anything when they win. George Carlin famously said that “No one ever says ‘It’s only a game’ when their team is winning.” Sadly, it is equally true to say that no-one ever asks “Why did we win?” when their team is winning. The fact is that, while we may be good at learning from defeats (by asking such questions as, “What went wrong? Why did we lose? Why did they score those points?”), we are not good at learning from victory. We tend not to ask such questions as, “What went right? Why did we win? Why did we score those points?” We are so excited that we do not stop to reflect for any length of time, so we do not learn anything. We may have won because we were very lucky, because the opposition had a dreadful day, because we happened to score the one chance that we had while the opposition failed to score with the 31 chances they had, because our goalkeeper played an absolute blinder this week. We may not have deserved to win but we did (yet who says we deserve to win if the opposition score more goals than us, when the point is to score more goals than the opposition?); we may have deserved to win but we did not.

Any manager should tell you that some days the team plays badly and wins but other days the team plays brilliantly but loses — they have more chances in one game that they lose than in another game that they win! The winning should not be everything —the learning should be.

The second reason why it is necessary to lose some to be winsome is because if we win all the time, we do not need to try or even to learn; we will revert to using our strength instead of skill or tactics to win, which may be fine against weaker opposition but when we come across a difficult task or team later, we will not know how to handle them. So what if we beat a weaker team?

The third reason why it is necessary to lose some to be winsome is because our character is affected by whether we win or lose. When we win all the time, we become so excited there is a real danger that we become arrogant and complacent; again, as a result we do not think to learn anything — all we do is celebrate. When we reflect on a previous article where we argued that the only thing we must win is respect (which is all part of character building), we should realise that we may win respect more by losing, by the way we lose, than by winning. Furthermore, we may lose respect by winning matches or arguments or elections in the wrong way.

If we are not prepared to lose (a match, an election or an argument), we will never win, and we will never be winsome, which is not only half the battle but also half the curriculum. We will not know the value of a win without a loss — that is the whole curriculum. Schools that go all out to be unbeaten are only doing half the curriculum. Winning and losing with dignity, humility, integrity, grace, humanity, (respect and sensitivity to others who have lost) — such are the qualities of being winsome. If we win some, we will become winsome; if we do not lose some, we will become loathsome.

Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools and author of the book on “failure” called Failing to Win.

email: ceo@atschisz.co.zw

website: www.atschisz.co.zw

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