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  • Writer's pictureLorri Palko

The Opportunity to Win in Defeat

As I discussed politics with my brother recently, the conversation turned to polarization. My view is that politics should be about the art of what is possible, while instead it has become about winning and losing. Interestingly this comment, triggered his memory of playing baseball. He shared how every game began with the umpire reciting the American Legion Code of Sportsmanship. Both teams would line up on the baseline opposite their dugout facing the infield. I immediately envisioned my brother standing tall with his leg guards, chest protector, and face mask in hand. I just know he was thinking about throwing someone out stealing second. Fifty years later after many wins, losses, strikeouts, hits, heroics and/or disappointments the words he heard before each game still resonated.

I will:

Keep The Rules

Keep Faith With My Teammates

Keep My Temper; Keep Myself Fit

Keep A Stout Heart In Defeat

Keep My Pride Under In Victory

Keep A Sound Soul

A Clean Mind And A Healthy Body.

This fascinated me. I had never heard of having a “stout heart in defeat”. I was intrigued to examine this stout heart business probably because I have been known to be a poor loser.

Let’s consider what does a poor loser look like? Certainly, blame is a big part of it. Blame the umpire, the referee, the field conditions, the noisy crowd, teammates, or point out, “If only the coaches had...” A poor loser may complain about the weather and even the time of day the game was played. The competition itself was unfair. It was rigged. The other team cheated. Poor performance could easily be excused by a sore ankle, back spasm, emotional distress, personal, family or work problems. The final analysis is that the poor loser takes no responsibility for the outcome.

Rather than being a poor loser, what does keeping a stout heart in defeat look like? First of all, there is no blaming, no complaints, and no excuses. One of the most important things to do is to acknowledge the winner with a handshake, phone call, etc. By doing that, you not only grant the winner fulfillment, but you also show respect for the entire experience. When you begin the process of acceptance of the finite result, it gives you the foundation for growth and learning. Through reflection and analysis of the effort, the strategies, the decisions, you realize you did all that you could do, or you may learn where there are opportunities for improvement. This allows the heart to open.

“Keeping pride under in victory” was not something I personally have had to work at, since I am usually too focused on the next game. However, what does it look like when we don’t “keep pride under in victory”? Over-celebration can result, especially when the stakes are high. And sometimes the emotions that arise after a challenging victory result in a celebration that denigrates the opponent.

When there is a disregard for the importance of the opponent, it also shows disrespect for the competition itself. Without the opponent, there is no opportunity to excel. And even the collective effort of the team is not respected when an individual has a heightened sense of importance. “Keeping pride under in victory” should not take away from anyone’s accomplishment. However, it needs to be kept in perspective.

Rather than showing arrogance in victory, what does keeping our pride under in victory look like? It starts with acknowledging the opponent. Recognize that victory is sweeter when we appreciate the effort made on all sides. Remember, the competition provides a platform for bringing out the best in everyone. When we are operating at our best, it allows us to genuinely honor the totality of the accomplishment.

Well-known organizational psychologist, Adam Grant, recently said,

“Our character is on display in the moments when we declare victory and face defeat. Grace is celebrating a win without gloating and accepting a loss without complaining...”

I believe that when we lose or win, we know deep in our soul a code of conduct. This conduct shows the quality of our character and respect for the opposition and the experience provided.

In life we don’t always lose, and we don’t always win. Regardless, we are always participating. How we show up directly influences how tall we stand and the possibilities we envision for ourselves and others.

PS: If you can’t have a stout heart in defeat and pride under in victory don’t sit in the Big Chair. In other words, if you can’t live by The Code, it’s time to go back to Little League.

Let Lorri work with you to understand the how to lead your organization effectively, for your own success and the success of your teams. Find out how.

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