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Winning is More Valuable Than Losing

Michael Jordan

“Bulls win! Bulls win!”

Let’s face it…losing sucks! In the moments right after a defeat, there are no positive feelings. Dejection, pain, frustration, anger, confusion – these are the immediate emotions of losers.

Winners experience something quite different. Their victorious moments are bursting with euphoria, pride, joy, amazement, and gratitude. That’s how I felt Sunday when I completely blew away my stated goal for completing the Publix Georgia Half-Marathon.

Winners also experience another feeling that never presents itself when losing. It’s really a chemical reaction taking place at the cellular level. Some call it an “endorphin rush”. Some call it “runner’s high”. It’s best described as a tingling sensation that flows through the body. It clouds reason and logic. It dulls pain. It’s what allows marathon runners to sprint the last half-mile of a race having already completed 25 plus.

I cannot adequately describe how powerful that bodily reaction is. It has an addicting quality that pushes me to come back for more. It’s reason one that I say winning is more valuable than losing.

I know…I know. The benefits of losing are many. I’ve been there. I get it.

My sophomore year of high school, I was a starter on a basketball team that lost our private school state championship by one point. That one point was scored at the free throw line with no time left on the clock. One of our respected senior leaders, playing in his last game, was called for a blocking foul just as the buzzer sounded.

He felt awful. None of us blamed him. You win together and you lose together. I can’t think of a more painful way to lose a game though.

In the hours following the game, I confided in my coach that I would dedicate myself to helping us return and win a championship by the time I graduated. I allowed the pain of that day to linger in my mind for the next two years as I ran stairs at the football stadium, shot countless jumpers at the gym and gave everything in the games I played.

Without a doubt, my character was shaped by that loss. And when the buzzer sounded in the championship game two years later, five of us seniors walked away with a state title.

But I still contend that winning creates more value for your life than losing. Here are some other reasons I believe that.

Winning allows you to check goals off your list.

Winning allows you to dream bigger.

Winning breeds confidence.

Winning builds momentum to pursue the next task.

Winning relieves internal pressure.

Winning often brings monetary rewards.

Winning silences critics.

Winning silences personal doubts.

Winning inspires others (read the race recap and my comment to Student Debt Survivor to see how my winning is affecting my girls).

To be fair, it’s not all a bed of roses when we win. Winning has its dangerous side. However, none of the points I listed above can be accomplished when we lose.

My faith teaches me winning should be the goal anyway. The great missionary Paul, wrote in the Bible the following words, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it” (I Corinthians 9:24).

As someone more recently put it, “You play to win the game!”

I think they both knew something about the value of winning.

(For some more reading on the topic, check out this Harvard Business Review entitled “Ten Reasons Winners Keep Winning, Aside From Skill”)

Am I completely nuts? Is winning more valuable than losing? How has winning changed you? 

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  1. There are certain benefits to both, but overall I agree that winning is better than losing. There is a deep personal satisfaction and growth that happens when you achieve a goal, including the desire to go further and aim higher. The only time winning is not winning is when you win by hurting others or cheating. Or use your new-found power/strength to harm others. But then again, I’d consider those two scenarios as losing. Great post!

    • I agree with your sentiments Shannon. The interesting thing about winning is that it impacts other areas of your life. I believe my success with running gave me some confidence to start this blog.

  2. Financial Black Sheep says

    How you allow yourself to react after winning or losing is the true lesson. 🙂

  3. I’m confused. I thought “runner’s high” didn’t really have to do with winning since it can happen in the middle of a long run?

    Winning is what happens when you learn from losing.

  4. I think there are good lessons in both, but winning can be such a positive reinforcer. If you have a hard time motivating yourself, losing might just set you back (and you might never get, “back on the horse” so to speak).

    • I think you are right. So many positive things come from winning that it naturally generates forward momentum in your life. This race gave me a boost of confidence that my next, more difficult running goal (doing a full marathon in under 4 hrs.) may actually be achievable.

  5. John S @ Frugal Rules says

    That’s a great story! I always hated losing such close games, especially big ones. I almost would rather get blown out then to lose such a close game. I think both winning and losing have their benefits that are unique, but winning does allow you to grow and motivate yourself to reach higher.


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