How to Gain From Losing

Sarah Clancy ’20, Guest Columnist

I grew up with two older brothers and no room for excuses.  We played every sport you could imagine with full contact.  Between the two of them, I gained incredibly valuable life skills I don’t think I could have learned in any other setting, nor would I have wanted to.  They taught me how to throw a football, bend a soccer ball, and how to run like hell to avoid getting tackled, but most importantly, they taught me how to lose.  Our odd numbers made the teams tough, but no matter whose team I was on, they showed me no mercy.  That was perhaps the best thing they could have ever done for me.  Yes, getting tackled by my 14 year-old brother at age seven was awesome, really. But my brothers made me resilient. They used to tell me that if I keep losing, I’m just not working hard enough. Plain and simple.  But even better than that, they showed me how to get better.  

Now, as a college student, and someone who competes regularly throughout the semester, I know how to lose.  I understand that feeling is not the end of the world, rather it is what fuels me to strive for success.  We go to five horse shows per semester and compete against the Penn State team.  Tough competition.  Freshman year I placed fourth in my class and to me, that’s losing because Ricky Bobby had it right, “if you ain’t first, you’re last.”  So instead of complaining that the judge has no idea what she’s doing, or that the other rider had a better horse, I worked three times as hard.  Next horse show, I got third, the one after that, I won. And I liked winning, so I kept doing it.  Winning should require hard work, it shouldn’t be something that is handed to you just for showing up.  

These days, we see a lot of students going on about how “it’s not fair” that someone else got a better grade, a better housing lottery time, or that they didn’t make the a capella group they tried out for.  All of these “losses” focus so much negative attention and perpetuate the “poor me” attitude.  Channel that feeling into writing a better paper. Yes, you have to live in 25/27, but at least there’s a coffee shop below you, and you’re getting more exercise!  And either the a capella group had too many sopranos already, or you’re just not as good at singing as you think you are. Truth hurts. 

My point here is that it’s time for our generation to toughen up.  We all want to be recognized as great, but we haven’t done anything to get recognized, or frankly anything great.  Once you get out into the real world, the rejection from a job application is going to hurt, but it just means something better out there is coming along.  That being said, you still have to go look for it, because living in your parent’s basement when you’re 30 just ain’t it.  

So buckle down and get to work because it’s time to get slapped across the face with reality where we have to pay our own rent and buy our own groceries – yikes.  No one likes to lose, that’s just human nature.  But it is important to realize the emphasis losing puts on our flaws so we can make a conscious effort to address them. That is something that we should all constantly work on. Life is tough out there – work hard, be great, and whatever you do, don’t settle.