Someday. Winning matters (but so does failing)

By Matt Wilson, NTEA President, Chairman & CEO
Switch-N-Go, AmeriDeck & Bucks Divisions of Deist Industries Inc. (Hadley, Pennsylvania)

This article was published in the August 2016 edition of NTEA News.

I believe the bitter moments in life make the sweet ones so much better. Witnessing the continual letdown of professional sports in Cleveland, Ohio, throughout my childhood, I learned this lesson early.

The concept has been an inspiration to me long before June 19, 2016, when the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors to win an NBA championship. As my fellow Cleveland natives know, this win broke the longest championship void for a city with at least three major sports.

It illustrates how disappointments are part of life, and winning is so much more enjoyable when you’ve experienced loss.

For those unfamiliar with Cleveland (much less its professional sports teams), the city has approximately 390,000 residents, yet the championship parade drew 1.3 million people — more than three times the population. So, if you’re just entering the workforce or have recently taken on a new position, I think it’s especially important to keep this example in mind. 

Someday, you will do your best, and things will go wrong.

Someday, you will be shocked by a coworker’s poor decision-making.

Someday, you will see an employee struggle and be unable to help.

Someday, you will see someone on your team face a personal problem and not know how to be supportive.

Someday, you will cross paths with a person who appreciates you and your work more than you thought was possible.

Someday, you will see employees succeed in ways they did not think they could.

Someday, you will develop solutions in the face of opposition.

Whether in a work setting or on a sports team, the key to building a champion mindset is learning how to react when things don’t turn out the way you expect or hope. Everyone experiences defeat in some way. 

In fact, it’s strangely comforting to know even the most successful people encounter difficulty, at times. Sticking with the NBA theme, basketball great Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

When facing challenges, your response is often the differentiator between victory and failure. After experiencing defeat (e.g., seeing profits decline, someone else getting recognition for your project or simply sharing a bad idea), it’s easy to get discouraged, to start putting forth less effort and avoiding risks. However, successful people have the uncanny ability to deal with frustration by accepting their circumstances, analyzing the situation, identifying what went wrong, figuring out a meaningful solution and concentrating on the action plan. They manage to maintain a positive outlook, while taking proactive steps to improve.

In this regard, failure is integral to a thriving career. Once you’ve gotten a taste of disappointment in the workplace, it should motivate you to work harder and smarter to achieve a better outcome next time. Those who consistently give their best effort often take calculated chances and come up with innovative ideas — greatly increasing their odds of winning in the workforce, while simultaneously decreasing the likelihood of problems. When you ultimately accomplish a defined goal, you get to enjoy that unparalleled feeling of satisfaction. Jack Welch, former GE CEO, likes to say, “Winning matters.” Yes, it does, and it feels great — but it’s only part of the process.

No matter how much you prepare and strive for excellence, workforce setbacks are sometimes unavoidable. I encourage you to give your best, seek out mentors, own your mistakes and celebrate the wins. To that point, if you were impressed by the turnout for the Cavs championship parade, wait until the Browns win a Super Bowl. It may be a while, but that’s fine. As we say in Cleveland, “There’s always next year.”