Dan Waldschmidt

by Dan Waldschmidt

November 26, 2012

6 Lessons I Learned Being A Loser.

The lessons you learn from losing can change the rest of your life.

One of my first sales jobs was selling energy-efficient sun-rooms to homeowners in Northern Virginia. It was a sales job that paid huge commissions for quick sales. If you were one of the top performers, making a handful of deals, you were making make $75,000 a month. No joke. And I relished the new experience completely.

Out on one of my sales calls, I was lost in my exciting thoughts of world domination when I felt my car lurch a few times and then start to sputter. I quickly guided the vehicle to the side of the road and into a parking lot on a long hill. Looking down I could see what what the problem was — I was out of gas.

So I set about trying to fix that. And I had a genius plan. Instead of walking to the gas station, filling up a gas can, and walking back to the car, I would simply push the car to the gas station and solve the problem in one big audacious move.

Still wearing my work clothes, I jumped out of the driver’s seat and started pushing — a few inches turned into a few more inches. Then a few feet.  The car was moving.  But the slope of the hill made it impossible to push 3,000 pounds of metal much distance After each big push, the car would roll back down the hill a little further as I jumped back into the driver’s seat and desperate smashed the brake pedal.

But I was unwilling to stop. Unwilling to even consider that my plan might be flawed. I was going to push that car up the hill and down the road.  Minutes of car pushing turned into an hour.

That hour turned into another hour. Then another hour. Than another. And then four hours later, like a bucket of cold water had been poured on my head, I finally figured out that I was beaten. I realized that there was no way that I would ever be able to push that car up that hill and make it to the gas station.

It wasn’t going to happen.  I felt hopeless. Helpless. I sat on the edge of the concrete curb for a few minutes — my brain awash in thoughts of despair. “How could I be beaten this easily,” I kept thinking, shaking my head in loss. I was broken. It was an ugly feeling.

Forty-five minutes later my dad showed up with a gas can. I had called him from my cell phone and then sat back on the curb to wait. It was barely light out when he arrived to help. The problem was solved in minutes. Gas in. Car on.

He must have known that something else was going on because he looked at me for a few seconds. “Everything ok? he asked. I just gave him a hug. And choked back my tears.

There was no way that I could ever push the car to the top of that big hill. But I had just spent half the day trying to do just that.

What an idiot. Right?

Everybody knows that you don’t push your car up a hill to get to a gas station. You walk there. You buy an overpriced gas can, fill it up, and walk back to your vehicle.

That’s the formula. And the formula works. It’s worked forever. So why mess with it now? That’s usually how we’re told how to think. And it’s safe. And will likely save you some bumps and bruises. But you’ll also miss out on valuable life lessons. Years later I still remember that story and how I felt.

Here are some of the lessons I learned from losing:

  1. Just because your idea seems brilliant to you doesn’t mean it really is. Sometimes the biggest thing holding you back is your ability to admit that you might not be as smart as you think you are.  Be humble or life will find a way to do it for you.
  2. Just because you lose today doesn’t mean you’ll keep losing tomorrow. In fact, if you learn from what went wrong the first time around, you’re more likely to get it right the next time around.  You’ll be stronger and smarter.
  3. Just because an easier option exists doesn’t mean that you need to take it. Most of the time doing what it tough is the right choice. Not the other way around.  Be tougher than the problems that you are looking at.
  4. Just because it feels awful to lose doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. You’ll feel a lot better when you figure out after a few more tries.  Chances are that you’ll feel worse not trying anything.
  5. Just because you can’t figure it out by yourself doesn’t mean the problem shouldn’t be solved. A lot of the time, asking for help is the fastest way for you to make progress.  Don’t be afraid to get others involved.
  6. Just because there is already a way to solve a problem doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to figure things out your way. Maybe you know something that no one else does. Maybe you have different strengths than they do.  Push the limits.

The lessons you learn from losing can change the rest of your life.

Sometimes being a loser is the smartest you’ll ever be.

You realize that it’s your screw-ups that ultimately make you amazing.

It’s you spending way too much time with people who don’t care like you do. It’s you investing more money in an idea that you shouldn’t have ever started working on. It’s you fighting for your dreams even when everything seems to fall down around you. Those moments are you at your finest.

It’s a big, bold warning sign that you are about to do something awesome.

So fight a little harder. Learn a little faster. Give up a little less.

Learn from losing.

About the author

Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt doesn’t just talk about leveling up. He’s obsessed with it. He's set records as an ultra-runner and been the personal strategist for the leading business leaders of our time. He wrote a book, called EDGY Conversations that accidentally became a worldwide bestseller and continues to share his insights from the stage as a keynote speaker and on the blogs and podcasts you will find here. Most days, you'll find Dan heads-down, working on breakthrough strategies for his clients at EDGY Inc, a highly-focused, invite-only, business strategy execution company based out of Silicon Valley.