The Importance of Learning How to Lose

By: Shoshanah Marcus  |  December 17, 2021

By Shoshanah Marcus, Editor in Chief

I received my first participation trophy sometime around first grade. My mom thought it would be a good idea for me to undertake soccer as a hobby after school. Disclaimer: I was terrible at soccer, and after that horrible season, I would never play again. Still, I received a plastic star trophy covered in gold paint with the word “Winner!” printed on the front. Yet, when I received the trophy, I hardly felt like a winner. Honestly, I almost wish I didn’t get that trophy at all.

Society’s obsession with giving out participation trophies to make children feel that “everyone is a winner” is counterproductive. I feel that it does more harm than good, as it can hinder children from developing the skills they need to learn as well as the ability to learn how to lose. This logic is also flawed because if everyone is a winner, then really no one is a winner at all; every win requires relative losses. 

Learning how to lose is, in my opinion, more important than learning how to win. Having the ability to get back up after you fall down is a crucial aspect of the human experience. If we don’t experience being knocked down, we will never know how to build ourselves back up. You have to experience the soreness from lifting 1 lb weights before you can lift the 50 lb weight. Arguably, what distinguishes successful people is their ability to successfully know how to fail. In “What it Really Means to Win, Lose and Find Success Through it All,” Christopher D. Connors agrees, elaborating that “we learn from failures, mistakes, adversity and setbacks. How we begin to win is by moving forward with a positive attitude and strong work ethic and building our foundation for our next win on the previous losses.”

Many of the most successful people started out having more losses in their lives than wins. In fact, more often than not it was the losses themselves that inspired and initiated the wins. As Connors writes, even Steve Jobs was fired and rehired by his own company before finding success; J.K. Rowling herself experienced poverty and abuse, among other hardships, prior to becoming one of the most successful and well-known authors of the 21st century.

Nowadays, it seems like the extreme concern society places on the winner-loser scoreboard is self defeating. Accomplishments cannot be truly appreciated at face value because society is so consumed with keeping score. Without experiencing the bitterness of losing, we can’t appreciate the sweetness of winning.

This semester has not been easy for many of us. From the recent horrific tragedy in Woodmere to the chilling rise in antisemitism, the Jewish people have experienced unique hardships that have made this semester particularly difficult. In addition to all of this, coming back to campus in the midst of a global pandemic, returning after the majority of classes were virtual, meeting friends in person for the first time, or just working through the college experience in general has left many of us feeling overwhelmed and, quite honestly, emotionally drained. 

The way I see it, in learning to adapt as more hurdles are thrown our way we have two choices: we can either view this first semester back at school as just a loss, or we can transform the hardships that we have endured and learn how to lose. Connors advises, “Outstanding accomplishments in our lives come when we stay positive, work passionately and fervently in a cause or for a goal that may seem impossible…And winners know that it is through losing that we begin to build for the next win. We’re forced to go back to the drawing board and draw up the plans that will lead us to the life of our dreams.” It is only once we learn how to lose that we can truly learn how to win.