In 1958, Robert Lane decided to name his baby son Winner. Perhaps it was a wish or a special feeling that led him to call his son Winner Lane. His name sounds like that of a corporate CEO, a movie star or even a president of the United States.
Three years later, in 1961, when the Lanes’ seventh child, another boy, was born, Robert named him Loser. Believe it or not, they did.
With a name like Loser, who could expect much from this kid? But, Loser, as it turns out, was ever the winner. After attending a prep school and graduating from college, Loser found a job at the New York Police Department and rose through the ranks to the level of detective.
Winner, by the time he turned 50, was arrested more than 30 times for crimes a parent would cringe at.
This true story teaches a lesson that defies logic: A loser — in this case, Loser — can be an incredible winner.
We see this illogical truth often in life. There are a few winners born with brains, beauty and brawn who never struggle a day in their lives. In fact though, they are a small minority of our population. Many others, in fact, most winners, fail before they succeed, especially in small business. They illustrate the truth that in order to win, you need to lose first.
We all know business owners who stumbled before they succeeded: a buddy who barely graduated high school, got fired from his first few jobs and now owns a string of stores worth millions. Cousin Eddie, who spent his late teens and early 20s drunk and stoned, and at the age of 50, serves as lead pastor at a mega-church with more parking spaces than an NFL stadium parking lot. The next door neighbor, a successful plumber, now semi-retired, who suffered through two bankruptcies and a battle with the IRS.
It’s not just our family and friends who have traveled down the road to ruin before finding success. Five of America’s greatest business winners — Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Col. Harland Sanders, Steven Spielberg and Bernie Marcus (founder of The Home Depot) — were serial losers before they became winners.
Thomas Edison tried more than 10,000 times to invent the light bulb. Henry Ford’s first two automotive companies failed before Ford Motor Co. changed America. Col. Sanders’ recipe was reportedly rejected more than 1,000 times before a restaurant picked it up. Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school three times before getting his huge break. Bernie Marcus was fired from a job in Corporate America in 1989.
Three answers best explain this curious phenomenon.
When you lose, you learn from your mistakes. There’s no better education than getting knocked down by the challenges a small business owner faces.
When you lose, you feel and act differently. When a small business owner has been knocked down, his perspective changes dramatically; the fear of failure is less threatening. Without fear holding him back, he is willing to take new risks. Losers have a new-found freedom to forge ahead and experiment.
When you lose, you have a point to prove. Small business owners who lose are angry at themselves, angry at the economy or just plain sputtering mad. They refuse to go down and will keep plugging away until they win. Their motivation, borne of failure, leads them to win.
The winners with brains, beauty or brawn may make us envious of the ease with which they attain success; but it’s the other winners, those who first lose and continue to fight, who pick themselves up and try again, who won’t look themselves in the mirror until they win — they define the word “winner.”
Murray Singerman directs the Small Business Success Law Group, of Columbia. He can be contacted at 443-472-4101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.