Do you hate to lose? I do. In fact, even though I may appear to be a pretty laid-back guy, deep down I’m actually competitive as all get out. Even playing cards and dominoes with my family I’m often accused of being an obnoxious winner and a pouty loser. I hate to lose! But there are actually times when losing creates a competitive advantage and leads to strategic advancement. Consider, for instance, in baseball what is commonly known as a “sacrifice” where the batter gives up an out in order to advance one or more runners who are on base. It is a loss for the batter so to speak, but a strategic advancement for the team. It’s what we sometimes refer to as losing the battle but winning the war.
There’s a hilarious scene in the movie “Maverick” where Maverick (played by Mel Gibson) walks into a saloon and convinces a group of strangers to allow him to join their poker game by promising to lose for the first hour. Sure enough, for an hour he carefully loses every hand, throwing away good cards, folding potentially winning hands, and raising bets on bad ones. But at the end of the hour the tables turn, you might say, and he begins to rake in the chips. By losing, you see, he had lulled his opponents into thinking he didn’t know what he was doing, a strategy that cost him a few bucks up front, but by the end of the night had him sitting on a pile of money.
During my corporate career it drove my staff crazy how often I would cave in when minor disputes arose with customers or other departments in the firm. “Why did you give in on that?” they would accuse, “We were right!” Indeed most of the time we WERE right, but it didn’t matter for in considering the circumstances I generally concluded that the good will created by forfeiting often far outweighed the ill will it would cause by going to the mat to prove our point. And over the long haul I’m convinced it paid off as our reputation grew, as did market share, volume and profitability. In other words, it was worth losing a few battles to win the war.
I still hate to lose, though, don’t you? It hurt then and it hurts now to lose even a friendly game of dominoes. But if a little tactical loss here and there leads to bigger strategic victories, in the end isn’t that worth it?