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3 ingredients for turning defeat into victory


I’ve been a Falcons fan for as long as I can remember. When the Superbowls came each year, I’d always just pick the team with the best jerseys or the player that I liked the most; I never could find the will to really truly pull for a team from another city. And then this year came. This was the year. All the other teams (well, almost all) had had their time; this was going to be our time.

Then it happened. Defeat. It still hurts to talk about, and I’m just a fan. For the players, it must hurt on another level. It’s hard to go on — to get back into the game and try again. You just want time to stand still for a while, so you can just go hide and not have to face that situation again.

Put yourself in that situation.

We’ve all probably had a similar experience. Mine was at an old job. My boss called me into his office one day.

“Yeah… it’s not really working out for you here like we thought it would,” he said.

I can still remember going home and kind of curling up on the couch next to my wife and saying, “I don’t want to go back there.” I was defeated.

How did it turn out?

Two years later, I went into the same boss’s office to tell him I was leaving. He had given me three raises and a good deal more responsibility over the past two years. Things had changed. He sat back in his chair, took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes. He called his wife into the room (this was a small company).

“Are you sure?” He said.

“We were thinking you’d be a candidate for long-term management.” 

“Sorry,” I said. “The decision has been made.”

How do you take a bad situation and turn it around?

Looking at that situation from my current perspective, I can see it as a growing experience. I can see the things I should have done in the beginning, and how I started to change things, and I can understand how I moved forward. But when you are in the middle of those situations, it’s usually really, really hard to see how they can ever be changed. 

So here are a few things that I can see now, now that I have been able to put some distance between myself and that experience.

This too shall pass.

I can remember sitting on that couch, feeling worthless. I didn’t want to go back to that office, see those people again, because I didn’t see how I would ever get out from under the failures of that day. But the truth was that that situation would eventually be but a distant memory — a minuscule drop of the vast sea of experiences of life.

As it was, I went back into work the next day, and I kept on trying, even though I didn’t really understand why. This understanding would’ve given me more motivation.

You can come back from anything.

I believe in redemption; I believe in reconciliation. I believe in it in all circumstances, in relationships, in work, in play. The first thing that is necessary in coming back and seeking redemption is to admit one’s failures. If you can admit to yourself, and to other relevant people, that you failed and you want to make things right, you can come back from any situation, and emerge stronger than before.

Only a few things truly matter.

There are only a few things that are of ultimate importance and you have to decide what those things are. The placement of one’s desk, a nice expense account, the office pecking order, a company car, social status in the workplace — these are things that people spend lots of money on, and lose a lot of sleep over, but ultimately, at the end of one’s life, won’t matter a whole lot. When you have that perspective on your circumstances, it brings a lot of clarity to the question of what to do next.

So what do you do next?

Remember that all circumstances will eventually come to an end.  If you lose sleep, lose sleep over the things that truly matter, and let everything else sort itself out. And make a decision that you can come back from anything. That is how you can turn defeat into success.

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