Clear direction on how to lose.

Steve Douglas
4 min readApr 1, 2024

Understanding how to lose is an art. Without understanding this, one has no chance of overcoming it and its many challenges. What has made me who I am today is understanding the fundamentals of loss and how to cope with the unknowns, difficulties, questions, and complexities that come with the territory. The moment I registered the depth of this feeling in my life — and what drove me to who I’ve become — was one of many specific music competitions I would enter to continue refining my skills when I had downtime from touring. I outperformed the competition beyond measure from the perspective of not only my peers but all of the judges except one. One of the judges went out of his way to over-complicate the scoresheet and insisted that I underperformed in certain areas despite the consensus of the crowd and the other judges. I was nine years old when this occurred. The next youngest competitor was 21.

I’ve never felt like a victim of this circumstance. Rather, I view myself as an observer of how deeply it hurt. It’s not because of the loss. Rather, I processed at the young age of nine that there were individuals out there, regardless of my merit, talent, ability, humility, experience, and polite manner, who simply didn’t want me to win. I processed that this fact of life is a fundamental value of loss.

This was not the only time that I had lost under similar circumstances. Something similar has happened to me several times throughout my life. Each time, it hurt and hurt badly. What allowed me to overcome this perception of failure was one unique experience when the first-place winner came up to me with his father after the award ceremony had concluded. He was so perplexed that I lost that he and his dad attempted to give me the first-place trophy. In response, my dad stepped in and politely explained that I didn’t need the trophy. He said;

“My son needs to learn how to lose. To me, he is always a winner, and he doesn’t need a trophy to prove that. All winners must learn how to lose.”

Of course, I didn’t fully understand any of this at the time. I looked at my dad with confusion and lack of clarity, but never lack of confidence. I always had the confidence to know I needed to learn, so it pushed me to ask my dad difficult questions. He always did his best to answer but was equally never afraid to let me know when he didn’t know something.

These moments defined who I am as a person because I took these circumstances that, to me, were unfair and unjust and turned them into opportunities via the wisdom and patience of my father. My mother taught me similar lessons in math by simply and affectionately teaching me that some problems/losses in life have no solution. She says that certain problems in mathematics, by their very nature, derive no solution. She says she loves mathematics because there is always a clear answer, even when there isn’t one.

Clear direction on losing is an art form that must be practiced, not just accepted. There is value in loss because it’s the main component of winning. If anyone is going for anything great, loss is a pre-requisite — no matter their path, circumstances, or pedigree. There are no exceptions when it comes to winning. If one solely focuses on the art of the victory, then one is missing the side of the art of the loss. If we are all focused on the same thing, winning (like most of the world that’s focused on getting to the top, beating the competition, comparison, etc.), we are equally missing the same thing: the value of loss.

Loss must be understood from the perspective of always having perspective regardless of the scale (and, especially, the scope). It’s not about the losses that are attained, but the losses that will be maintained through life that one must accept to accept there are no exceptions when it comes to loss in life. It’s all about managing expectations. It’s a natural process of going after whatever greatness means to the individual.

The direction that is most clear is the one that is individual. While no one person does anything great alone, we all must find individuality alone. It’s the single most important factor in navigating loss and its terrain.

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Steve Douglas

Steve is a Canadian polymath whose pro music career officially began at age 4 when he performed live @ Wembley Stadium. His focus = tangibly benefiting youth.