Winners are Good Losers

One of the bloggers I follow is Rosabeth Moss Kanter of the Harvard Business School. She wrote a blog recently about “the difference between winners and losers.” You can read it here:

She said the biggest difference is “winners” handle losing better.

I know most of you aren’t golf fans but I am. Watching Phil Mickelson win the British Open yesterday was a real thrill.

Mickelson is one of the most successful golfers in history. He appears to be a great family man. He has a ready smile and interacts with golf fans in a patient and generous manner. He plays golf boldly and has won frequently on tour.

One of the things that has evaded him, though, is victory in the US Open. Mickelson has come in second in that championship on six different occasions. A couple of times it appeared that he had it won but he fell back in the last holes to finish the runner up.

His most recent second-place finish was a few weeks ago. He led for almost every hole in the tournament only to drop back. It was a bitter loss for him.

So, it was a surprise to most everyone when he gathered himself and won two tournaments in a row this month in Scotland. Yesterday’s victory was particularly dramatic. He played what he described as the “best round of golf” he ever played. He birdied four of the last six holes, coming from five strokes behind to win the tournament.

According to Moss Kanter, winners realize that losing is the price of competing. No one wins all the time.

Thus, winners get back in the game. Some people suffer a loss like Mickelson did at the US Open and take months to get over it. We see him not only not suffering but responding with some of his best golf.

Winners learn from mistakes. Golf in Scotland is different than golf in America. The courses are old and rambling. The climate is stark and windy. It has been said that Mickelson’s game was more suited for America than Scotland. But, through the years, he has built flexibility into his game where he can compete on either side of the ocean. For him to have his “best round ever” on a Scottish course demonstrates how much he has learned through the years. He didn’t repeat mistakes yesterday that he had made in the past.

Moss Kanter says that winners control their responses to difficulty. We can choose to lick our wounds or we can get up. Mickelson obviously got up and came back.

Moss Kanter says, “Arrogance and greed crowd out resilience. Humility and a noble purpose fuel it.” For many years, Mickelson tried to win in Scotland without changing his game. Only after he humbled himself and said “I will change” did he achieve his goal of becoming champion.

Winners realize that losing is part of the gig. They keep right on playing. Confident that a win is on the way again.