What to Do When You Lose

You’ve written a proposal, and you’ve lost–now what?

The government (or other customer) might or might not provide feedback. As you’re absorbing the loss–and the feedback–you have to start answering serious, honest questions about yourself and your performance: What did you do well? Where did you miss the mark? What could you have done better?

It’s in your best personal and professional self-interest to take any losses to heart and to change your behavior after understanding what you did wrong. That’s often the hardest part of any loss. I won’t lie: it’s humbling. Still, I don’t know about you, but I learn best through pain, by absorbing hard lessons about myself through real feedback from the outside world. It’s also often a truism that we learn more from failure than from success, and perhaps that’s true. Success can lead to arrogance, blind spots, or misperceptions about the reasons we won in the past.

It’s easy to get angry when you lose, or to blame others: the other company had an inside track with the customer; Congressman X had a favorite in the agency; or maybe the program manager had it in for your company. Yet in the end, if you are honest with yourself, you must inevitably place at least some of the blame on yourself. Winners share success and accept responsibility, losers blame others and deflect attention away from themselves. How you choose to respond to a loss and go forward affects how you perform in the future.

As the saying goes, “I never lose. I either win or I learn.” That’s the attitude we all need to have as we face the inevitable losses that cross our path.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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