Count Your Losses0
By Frank J. Rich
Most of what you hear from me is about winning in the marketspace. I trust it is on solid moral grounds that I recommend any action you might take to grow your organizations. By and large, however, this column is about growing something—people, attitudes, initiatives, product and market strength, and the underpinning ethic that informs good citizenship. It is about gain.
The model of a successful organization is one that is tilted forward in the marketplace, embracing risk as though it were another flight of stairs to climb. It is one whose people and institutions are aligned with its goals, whose same people are in pursuit of personal and professional growth and that also know that to achieve the greatness they desire requires a mighty dose of unselfish giving of themselves to others, for their successes first.
We have studied the ways to assess the market; its internal workings. As well, we have looked at how to measure its performance, its potential, and the opportunity in it and us to realize the promise it holds for self-fulfillment and a better life and legacy.
In more than seven hundred columns, we’ve considered tools, models of efficiency, execution cultures, focus, leadership, management techniques, problem solving and decision making, managing risk, change, conflict, talent and conquering doubt, engagement, benchmarking, trust, passion, commitment, and failure.
In the process of that development, we face challenges that test our mettle, that reveal the person inside, that measure our stomach for the war game we call business. At times, the struggle is a little greater than we’d choose to endure if the choice were ours in the first place. It usually isn’t, save for the planned failure that gives light to a natural model in the behavioral tracking of people at work.
We’ve also learned that there is no productive value in blame or excuses, no less than from Dick Lyles’ book Winning Habits, in which he describes as the second winning habit the urging to never trade results for excuses. It’s a winsome idea, since we know that they (excuses) are born of fear, and that fear robs us of our courage; our will to press on.
At times, in the struggle, we must be willing to allow failed initiatives to die, to shut down even long-running operations in favor of building an entirely new lineup of products, be willing to embrace loss, endure pain, temporarily lose freedoms, build relationships with competitors, accept compromise, and imagine a marketspace, even life as we know it, markedly different than the comfortable one we know.
These are often counted as losses, and rightfully so. Our usual “take-no-prisoners” verve whines wistfully when what we counted highly on the way to achievement measures differently in the end. It is when we are less in control of things than we’d like to be. It is when our perspective floats around us like the vast sea as we struggle to keep afloat without aid of fins or flotation devices. It is when we count loss, not give up, but just count loss because it is real.
Someday I hope to hear grandchildren call me grandpa, to ride ten miles on my Trek 1200 at 75 as I do now, to count wisdom greater than wealth, and to see the living things around as more than just resources. Someday I hope to gain perspective on all the things I do and find others in the midst of my joy. And someday I hope to get over the loss of Argento, who at just under two years old left this world a cancer victim. I miss him waking me in the morning as he left my side in bed, and his warm and peaceful, carpeted skin on my lap as I sat and read, and his deep throaty purring that called to an ancient wisdom. Despite all that I know about gain, on that day I counted loss.