What Winning Taught Me About Losing

Were you one of those ‘sporty kids’ at school?

I wasn’t. 

Perhaps you were one of those kids who always seemed to literally fly past me in the 100 metre race, snatching the first place ribbon while my little legs appeared to fail to keep up with my ambition.

Or maybe you were there with me at the back…face red, lungs bursting, only to cross the line in second last place…again.

I did get a little faster and stronger throughout life but I have to say I’ve never really felt like I’ve ‘won’ at anything. Certainly not in my sporting pursuits and not in my mind when it came to my career or businesses.

As a result I’ve grown to feel a little uncomfortable about the idea of being ‘a winner’ and have no doubt sabotaged my efforts over the years to avoid actually joining that seemingly exclusive (and somewhat elusive!) club.

I accepted long ago (and perhaps convinced myself as well) that being first was not the point.  I do truly believe that simply being in the game is what’s most important, to participate and give 100%, with winning simply an added bonus should everything come together on game day. 

Don’t get me wrong. I have always achieved ‘good’ results in whatever I’ve done. Whether it’s business, sports, investing or health I’ve always done well and I’m grateful for the wonderful life I’ve lived so far and the experiences I’ve had.  Perhaps I sound ungrateful and you’d be forgiven for drawing that conclusion but my view of winning, and winners, has changed somewhat over the years.

Having said all that, a proper 1st place ribbon has remained an unchecked box on my list…and something that has intrigued me in my work with others.  Does it matter? Do we need to create our own definition of winning? Is it healthy? Unhealthy? Is it society that places these expectations on us? These are all questions I’ve pondered and my clients have wrestled with, although the answers remain unclear.

The game changed for me recently.

A week or so ago I won 2014 Small Business of the Year in the Sunshine Coast Business Awards, in the knowledge industries and professional services category. I was chosen from hundreds of other businesses as the best of breed in our local region. There are over 30,000 registered businesses on the Sunshine Coast so to receive this accolade is quite an achievement.  I suppose everybody says it but I truly didn’t expect to win this award and was excited to simply be named as a finalist. I wasn’t even paying full attention when my name was read out as the winner!

I’ll remember those words for many years to come, “And the winner is… Warrick Bidwell!”

I’ll remember them, not because I felt like I’d finally won a race and collected the shiny blue ribbon. What I’ll remember most is the look in my wife’s eyes as I turned to her in disbelief. I’ll remember my parents’ beaming smiles as I shuffled past them to the end of our row on the long walk to the stage.  I’ll also remember the hundreds of messages of congratulations and ‘you deserve it’ from my clients, friends, followers and competitors.

I used to look at winners and thought I knew how they felt and what they must be thinking.  Words like “I did it!” or “I won!” or even “I beat you and you and you and now I’m the best!”  Perhaps some people do think and feel those things when they win but I certainly didn’t. I just felt grateful. Grateful for everyone’s applause, congratulations, smiles back at me as I tried to remember my speech that I’d left sitting on the benchtop at home…

Warrick and his wife Angela with his 2014 Small Business of the Year AwardUltimately, the thing that’s brought me the most happiness in winning this award has been the opportunity to share it with my clients. I know that probably sounds a little cliché but then, clichés only exist because they’re true, right? Without my clients I wouldn’t have a business. I wouldn’t have achieved the things I have, I wouldn’t have driven myself to grow personally and professionally to the levels I have and I wouldn’t be fulfilling my purpose and my reason for being.  My clients trust me, believe in me (sometimes more than themselves), listen to me and more importantly share their fears, hopes, dreams and struggles with me.

I am honoured that they have chosen me to be their mentor, coach, confidante and ‘unreasonable business friend’ over the years because I know they had a choice.  They could have chosen to work with someone else or, worse still in my mind, chosen to do nothing at all.

I’m a little challenged and intrigued sometimes when people say they’re humbled in winning an award. I’ve always thought it a bit strange because they worked hard, entered the race or the competition and certainly did so with winning in mind. I think I now understand what they mean – I am truly humbled by this recognition and rather than feeling uncomfortable, I’m ready to shout from the rooftops how great it is to finally think of myself ‘a winner’.

Keep running.

Warrick

Special thanks to my beautiful wife Angela for her never ending support and belief in me, my parents Lyn and Roy for giving me the best start in life they could, my virtual team Amy, Lyndal, John, Michaela and Alys for helping me get everything done, my business buddies Wade and Paul for keeping me on track, my first ever business coach Bruce for helping uncover my purpose and to my clients… you inspire me to be better. Warrick