10 Reasons Why Losing Does Not Make You a Loser

by Alli Polin on November 22, 2016


My son came home from school last week feeling down. I asked him what was wrong and he told me he was selected as a judge for the school gymnastics competition that was held earlier in the day. I didn’t understand; it sounded like a fun way to spend the afternoon. What was the problem?

“I felt bad for the people who didn’t get an award or even a sticker. They tried really hard but they just weren’t as good as the people who won.”

Interestingly, the week before, he and his friends participated in our town’s Wearable Arts competition. Wearable arts are handmade art creations in a wearable form that push the boundaries of creativity. There were some truly spectacular creations in this year’s competition.

Now, for a moment, imagine the only all male team was a group of 5th-grade boys. They used cardboard, spray paint, most of my tin foil and all of my disposable cooking pans to create from their hearts and imagination. After they had worked tirelessly for the entire term with no help from parents or teachers, they were proud of their entry.

Then came the judging…

No award, no highly commended; they were crushed.

They put in their best effort and lost. Most adults know that’s a reality of life, but it’s still is a painful lesson no matter how many times the universe helps you learn it. When you do your best and put yourself out there, it does more than sting when you lose; it hurts no matter what your age.


After judging the gymnastics competition my son now had a new life lesson:

Even when you lose, it doesn’t make you invisible. There are people out there who see you and appreciate your effort even if they never tell you. They’ll also remember you.

I told him: 
You had the courage to do something; others didn’t. Just like the kids in the gymnastics competition.
You all enjoyed the process, and that matters.
Even when you don’t win, people respect that you’re IN IT. You’re trying, and that’s never worthless.

In that moment, I swear I could see the lightbulb above his head start to glow. There was no shame in not winning wearable arts or the gymnastics competition. He was proud of everyone who tried, but they simply weren’t the best. It didn’t change the way he saw them as human beings. There were no scarlet “A” letters handed out to the people who lost or crowns for the winners. Despite how he felt and what he told himself, he was not a loser and if you fail, you’re not a failure.

I think we all know what it’s like to lose when you wanted to win.

Maybe it was a promotion or a big sale that you were inches away from closing. Or perhaps you didn’t get an offer for a new job or your small business was a flop and fold. Every time you lose, no matter the circumstance, it hurts because when you go all in, no holding back, it feels personal. You’ll second guess and wonder where you went wrong or if you could have done more. Unfortunately, or maybe it’s fortunately, time only moves forward.

Ten Reasons Effort is Never Worthless – Even if You Lose

You set your bar.
You now have an opportunity to get better.
You know and don’t need to waste time wondering “what if.”
You can’t win if you don’t put yourself out there and try.
You inspired others who were too afraid today to give it a go in the future.
You raised your hand, and people noticed.
You challenged yourself.
You were courageous.
You can use what you learned to reach higher and go further next time.
You cared enough to go all-in.

A gold star doesn’t identify you as a person of value, and the road to success is paved with far more losses than wins. Be grateful you’ve got one more behind you and are one closer to where you want to go.

What’s your experience with trying and falling short? What aha will you share here?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Gruber November 22, 2016 at 8:35 am

Thanks, Alli. I wish every student could read, mark and digest this. For those of us who were in competitive athletics, it was one of the many lessons learned. It was not so much whether we won or lost, although winning seemed to be more fun, it was how we played the game and that we were in it to give our best efforts. Of course we made mistakes and learned from those too but even when we lost, our coaches made sure we knew that we were not losers and that we were ready to begin again and give our best the next time.


Alli Polin November 22, 2016 at 9:52 pm

Many thanks, Gary! Whether through athletics or other events where there are winners and losers, it’s important that people learn that it’s an outcome, not a label. This has been a tough lesson for my son no matter how many times he’s fallen… he gets back up but it takes effort. Sounds like you had some great coaches.

Thanks again,



Terri Klass November 22, 2016 at 9:13 am

Love your post Alli!

I especially loved your reasons for why effort is never worthless. With each new experience, win or lose, we each learn something new if we are willing to keep an open perspective. That is what your son did. I think he is a great role model to all of us to never give up or think less of ourselves when we face a defeat.

Thanks Alli and will share today!


Alli Polin November 22, 2016 at 9:53 pm

You’re right, Terri. The losing brings a lesson (and so does winning). Taking those lessons is what helps us to continue on towards future success even when the road ahead is a tough one to follow.

Thanks so much!



Jon Mertz November 23, 2016 at 6:50 am


For me, it is what I do next time. There is always a next time in some shape or form. What we learn from our losses help us in what we do next time. I know it has helped me, and sometimes it takes a few tries to learn the right lessons.




Alli Polin November 29, 2016 at 12:09 am

Taking our learning forward is the best thing we can do. What’s the alternative? Wallowing forever? Giving up? No thanks.

Appreciate you, Jon!


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