Losing Gracefully

Having to bring up two boys has taught me so much about the way God has wired men in general.

Out of their many traits, one that I get to watch the most is their competitive spirit between themselves. The desire to be the first and the best is mostly the main reason for conflicts between my 6 year old and 9 year old sons.

What I learnt is that boys in general are natural competitors, they love challenge and nothing excites them quite like winning.

If you want your boys to finish up a task, instead of commanding them to do it, just pick up the same task yourself and challenge them to finish it first – the trick always works.

This competitive impulse is evident in boys of all age groups. Our boys possess a competitive and adventurous spirit all the time.

It doesn’t mean girls don’t have the same competitive spirit in them but maybe not as much as in boys, I may be wrong. I see a glimpse of that in my wife but its mostly to tease me. So, please don’t look at this article from a boys perspective only, you can apply it even if you have girls.

Apparently, as the title suggests what I want to share today in this article is not about winning but about losing, which according to me is a very important lesson we need to teach our children.

Whether in war, in politics, in sports, in business, in school competitions or life in general, losing teaches us more than winning does.

As parents, we need to teach our children not only how to win but also how to lose gracefully. As adults we have to model it to them by vigorously resisting the idea of ‘winning at any cost’ and teach them that losing is not a bad thing.

I remember listening to an interview by a Indian actor called “Anupam Kher” who recalls a story from his school days when he had miserably failed in his exams and his Father, instead of scolding him took him to a restaurant and bought him a delicious meal.

Anupam expected his father to punish him but instead he was given a treat. When he asked his father the reason for the celebration, his father taught him the importance of losing and encouraged him to do better the next time.

Out of all the memories he has about this father, this one he said stands out, one that has always inspired him to learn from his failures.

“One’s successes are not as wonderful as they appear, but neither are the failures as awful as they seem at the time” – Dr. James Dobson (from the book ‘Bringing up Boys’)

“If you want success in any aspect of your life, then you have to embrace failure and build on the benefits it generates.” – Michael Lindenmayer

Teaching our children to lose gracefully has benefits that we shouldn’t ignore. Let me share 3 benefits that stands out for me.

1. Encourages Creativity

Almost every new invention we’ve seen and experienced in this world have gone through innumerable failed attempts whether it is the invention of the flying machine by the Wright brothers, or the invention of television by a farm-boy called Philo Farnsworth, or the invention of the electric light bulb by Thomas Edison.

If you read the accounts of their inventions you will see how miserably they failed initially but because they embraced failures as a stepping stone, they never gave up on their endeavour and impacted the world through their inventions.

Creativity and Innovative impulses that gave birth to these great inventions are a result of failed attempts, which is why it is important to teach our children to lose gracefully.

2. Instills Courage

The absence of courage to stand up, speak up, and take up new journeys in life is mostly because of our fear of failure.

Because we are so afraid of failure we fail to take risks, and because we fail to take risks we fail to grow.

No matter how safely one walks in life and makes his choices, failure is inevitable; we all have to face failures one way or the other. The question is, how well are we prepared to face it?

The courage to stand up, speak up and take up new journeys is a by-product of being willing to lose gracefully. We need to teach that to our children.

3. Self Discovery

The biggest mistake we can make is to live somebody else’s life – to try and become someone else other than who we really are.

Self-discovery as defined by The American English Dictionary is “becoming aware of one’s true potential, character, motives, etc.”

Self-discovery means not only finding our purpose in life but also realizing what our core beliefs are and living by them. And what we achieve through self-discovery is happiness, fulfillment, clarity and enlightenment!

Self discovery happens when we are willing to lose gracefully to the extent where we start dismissing everything that is not part of us.

We should never encourage our children to be like someone else. Instead we need to teach them to walk the path of self discovering themselves through failures.

Even as I’m writing this article I cant stop thinking of the many ways I want to teach my boys the importance of losing gracefully.

Failing is not easy, it is a painful place to be in. Sometimes we may have to stay in the dark, in the unknown, for months and maybe for years.

As parents, because we love our children so much we tend to protect them, make life so easy for them that they never get to experience failures.

Remember though that you cant hang around them all their life. They will one day have to face the world and unless you’ve taught them to lose gracefully, they will always struggle to make much of life and take up whatever challenge comes their way.

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