10 Ways to Successfully Handle Defeat

06/17/2015 08:32 am ET | Updated Jun 17, 2016

I can remember as a kid watching ABC's Wide World of Sports. The introduction of the show was fascinating. As the opening credits started, Jim McKay's signature voice welcomed all viewers. "Spanning the globe to bring you a constant variety of sports." On screen, the action was incredible and in vivid color; moments of amazing drama quickly unfolded. McKay's narration continued, "The thrill of victory." Action shots of athletes at the top of their game, on the field, hands raised, victorious. "And the agony of defeat." A ski jumper falling just a few yards from his take off point, body tumbling over the edge of the ramp, limp like a rag doll.

"If passion drives you, you will stay in the game as long as it takes to be successful."

I have always loved a good victory dance. And who doesn't love a win, regardless of the victory coming from the workplace, on the field, or in life. Although I have never been a big fan of professional sports, I still appreciate glorious moments like a world series win or a dance in the end zone after a touchdown.

The images remain in my mind from the show's opening, but for many years, I never truly understood why anyone would possibly put themselves in the direct line of fire with the agony of defeat, until I started my own business and put all of my effort, energy and passion into this part of my life. Now I understand much more clearly. Without risk, there is no reward. The potential thrill from being victorious comes with the possibility of meeting victory's nemesis, defeat.

"The potential thrill from being victorious comes with the possibility of meeting victory's nemesis, defeat."

Driven by the goal of developing a winning business plan or a gold medal idea, I have pushed myself through defeat when it has occurred. And it has reared its ugly head more often than I care to mention or have time to write about in this blog. As I think back to the many business defeats I endured, restarts in my career and flops that I have experienced, I share with you 10 ways I deal with defeat:

  1. Learn a lesson. Use this opportunity (yes, there is opportunity in defeat) to reflect on what just happened. Did you lose the deal because you were unresponsive to your customer or was your pricing too high? Did you and your team deliver poor service or were you in over your head when you started? Take away from your defeat a lesson and try to keep it from happening in the future.
  2. See the glass half full. Look at all the good things you are accomplishing. Be an optimist and get your head in the right place. You are taking risk when you step outside your comfort zone. Get uncomfortable, you will succeed. Stay positive, focused and happy. Your positive perception of a situation will help you stay upbeat. See the glass filled to the brim.
  3. Every failure puts you one step closer to success. Play the odds and know they are now in your favor. If you have just experienced defeat, all is good, you are getting closer to success.
  4. See opportunity in every failure. Some of the best business ideas have come as a result of defeat or failure. In 1968, in an attempt to develop a super strong adhesive, a scientist at 3M developed a "low tack" reusable adhesive that is now the glue applied to the back of each Post-It Note produced. Look for your opportunity when you are defeated. It could be worth millions.
  5. Look for guidance from the experts. Always be a student. When defeat finds you, seek the counsel of someone wiser than you. Use personal contacts, social media contacts, blogs, discussion groups and professionals in your industry to help you determine what went wrong. Seeking the guidance of professionals is not a sign of weakness, but rather a show of humility.
  6. Keep your eye on the prize. Setting goals is an excellent way to overcome defeat. Knowing that you will experience setbacks, roadblocks and a few bumps along the way will help you see past them and allow you to focus on your goals.
  7. Take responsibility and do not blame others. The only person to blame when you are defeated is you. It's not the economy, the competition, a teammate or a co-worker. It's you. Here's the best part, you are in control of you and no one else. Take the hit squarely and move on.
  8. Stay in the game and don't give up. The only way defeat will end up as failure is if you quit. Remember why you started to pursue your dreams in the first place? If passion drives you, you will stay in the game as long as it takes to be successful. The enemy of defeat is persistence. You will win if you stay at it long enough.
  9. Continue to give it your best effort. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Provide your best effort. If you don't think you will be able to provide your best effort, don't start. If you are just going through the motions you will experience defeat over and over again, and it will take its toll on you. Give it your best and defeat will have a tough time grabbing hold.
  10. Believe in yourself. I saved this one for last because if all else fails believing in yourself will pull you through. I have experienced time and time again when the only thing holding me from defeat was faith in myself and the words, "I can do it." You are strong enough, good enough and deserving of all scores in the win column.

If you approach anything in life with an attitude of positivity, defeat might still find you, but its visit will be brief. I encourage you to feed your brain with positivity, avoid the naysayers and stay in action. You will never be able to control all of the external forces hitting you from all directions, but you can control how you respond to what is happening. Challenges, defeat and failure will present great opportunity while you are on the road to victory. I am looking forward to seeing you in the winner's circle.

Doug Sandler's best selling book, Nice Guys Finish First, is available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle and Audible. He has an online training program and is also available for keynote and workshop presentations for your your organization. For more information you can reach him directly at or visit his website at

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