The Art of Losing

“It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.” — Elizabeth Bishop

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” — Hemingway

A stranger paid me a compliment yesterday after I’d finished speaking.  “What you just shared was amazing!” she said, “How did you learn all of that information?”  It was humbling.  I told her that I read a lot.  I research a lot.  I listen to people who are much smarter than I am and learn from them.  I think about things and try to find connections that make sense to my clients.  I practice.  I try to be as self-critical as I can.  I’ve made friends with incredible men and women who are kind enough to collaborate.  I strive for purpose.

And I’ve lost a lot.  I’ve lost more than I’ve won.  Losing is painful.  But losing, to me, is as instructive as winning.  I’ve been down.  Way down.  I’ve been so down that the bottom of the barrel became a familiar friend.  I’ve lost a marriage.  I’ve lost a home.  I’ve lost jobs.  I’ve quit jobs.  I’ve worked for people who didn’t care about me.  I’ve lost friends.  I’ve lost relationships.  I’ve lost things.  And I’ve lost time.  So much time.  I lost myself for a long, long time.  I’ve lost love, joy, hope, faith, strength, vision…the list goes on.  I’ve been broke.  I’ve been broken.  I’ve been miserable.  I’ve been so close to giving up that any other alternative didn’t seem plausible or realistic or worth the effort.

But I had to get back up.  I’ve failed at getting back up.  More than once.  But I did get back up. 

Losing taught me how to love.  Losing taught me humility.  Losing taught me gratitude.  Losing taught me how to listen to my heart.  Losing taught me how to be unashamed.  Losing taught me how to listen.  Losing taught me appreciation.  Losing taught me patience.  Losing taught me courage.  Losing taught me respect.  Losing taught me to choose myself.  Losing taught me to know what I want for myself.  Losing taught me how to be a friend.  Losing taught me how to be a husband.  Losing taught me that time is so precious and so scarce.  

Losing taught me how to get up off the floor and be strong.  Losing taught me how to be a better (hu)man.  I’m still a long ways off.

So to my friend, the academic answer to your question is an answer but it’s not THE answer.  The full and rich answer is simple: the more open, humble, grateful, sincere, curious, loving, and caring I become the better I am my life.  The better I am at my life the better I am at my job.  

To my new friend: Thank you for the compliment yesterday.  Never quit.  We all take our knocks.  We all lose.  That’s life.  Just don’t run from the bad times.  Live in them for a while and then live your way out of them.  Just don’t surrender to what might feel like a disaster.  You’re stronger on the other side of losing.

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