The grapes aren't sour...

The grapes aren't sour...

The winner doesn’t always take it all, the one who loses can also take home something very valuable. Why then are we such bad losers, wonders Jisha Krishnan.

As the bat swung over his shoulder and the ball knocked off the makeshift stumps, all hell broke loose. The bowler and his gang pranced around the road, hugging each other, calling the batsman names. The other team cried foul, screaming on top of their voices — no ball, no ball — taking the name calling a notch higher (or lower, depending on how you look at it).

If you have ever watched a game of gully cricket, played in the many alleyways of India, the scene must seem fairly familiar. It doesn’t matter if the players are four- or forty-year-olds; the turn of events is seldom different. “It’s because we play to win,” a friend once tried to enlighten me.

Well, Serena Williams, undoubtedly, plays to win. Yet, the world number one tennis player, on losing the Australian Open recently, had the grace to say, “She (Angelique Kerber) played so well today, she had an attitude that a lot of people can learn from: just to always stay positive and never give up. I was really inspired by that, so if I couldn’t win, I’m happy she did.”

And this was no ordinary loss for the 33-year-old champion. It was a golden
opportunity to match Steffi Graf’s record of 22 grand slam victories. Whether or not she manages to attain that feat, the feisty tennis star did win many hearts with her sports(wo)man spirit.

The ‘L’ word
The dictionary defines a loser as “a person or thing that loses or has lost something, especially a game or contest”; “a person who accepts defeat with good or bad grace”.

However, in popular usage today, the term essentially has negative connotations. Unless we are talking about weight loss, in which case, almost everybody wants to be a loser. In most other contexts, someone who is good for nothing is a loser. The ‘L’ sign formed by using the thumb and the index finger sends the message across in no uncertain terms.

Naturally, nobody wants to be a loser. Not the teen whose cool friends have half a dozen excuses for not inviting her for a sleepover, or the jazzy professional who’s left behind at his desk, while his colleagues bond over a smoke. We like to win; we want to be on the winning team. 

“Especially now that it’s appraisal time,” quips an HR manager with a hospitality firm. In case you are imagining all the employed folks pulling up their socks and putting in their best to make the cut, you obviously live in a utopian world. “People are more interested in ensuring that their colleagues don’t get a bigger raise or promotion,” says the gentleman who claims to have seen it all — dirty office politics, backstabbing, vicious power
struggles.

Take the high road
You don’t have to be a sportsperson to cultivate the spirit that’s sure to serve you well in the game of life. Imagine going through the many challenges of everyday living, the cut-throat competitions at work, constant comparisons on the home front, without the ungainly baggage of bitterness, rage, envy…

“But to be able to do that, we first need to unlearn everything that we have been taught about failure,” says Archana Purohit, an erstwhile corporate communications professional, who’s now testing the entrepreneurial waters. Keen to launch an adventure sports venture, the 36-year-old has had her fair share of “failed attempts”.

As much as failure hurts, confides Archana, it’s the attitude of the people around you, near and dear ones, that really tests you. “You are always being compared to the classmate who earns double your salary or the cousin who excels at raising her kids and keeping that corporate job…Willingly or unwillingly, we all become part of the rat race,” she sighs. Understandably then, most of us don’t fancy congratulating the successful classmate or appreciating the cousin’s fine skills at striking the right work-life balance.

But you got to try it, at least once, in all sincerity, without any sarcasm or ulterior motives, urges the aspiring entrepreneur. Once you attain the humility to accept defeat with grace, things change for the better. “It won’t happen overnight and it’ll take considerable amount of practice. However, it’s worth the effort. You are free to pursue your journey then, without all these unnecessary pressures and stress…The winner, if you look closely and without prejudice, has her own battles to fight. You don’t lose anything by applauding her effort,” contends Archana.

If all this seems like a little too much to ask for, perhaps, you need to tweak your attitude. Failure, as the saying goes, is not the opposite of success, it is part of success. The common thread running through all success stories is the lessons learnt from failure. Why did you fail? What did you do wrong? Is there a blind side to be addressed? A weakness to be worked upon? Whether you are Albert Einstein or Amitabh Bachchan, talent alone doesn’t suffice. You need to cultivate the right attitude to survive the many failures that life throws in your path. If you choose to sit moping around, crying foul and ranting about how unfair the world is, that’s all you’ll be doing for the better part of your life.

The next time you see a toddler throw a tantrum because he didn’t come first — climbing the stairs, finishing the cookie, getting the shoes off — resist the urge to let him win. Tell him how he can do better the next time, urge him to be a sport, show him that there’s no shame in losing. Do him a favour: teach him to be a good loser.

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