Note: My publisher asked me to do a brief Q&A about my book. I've reposted it here because I get these questions a lot -- why I came up with the idea, who the book is for, etc.
1. Why write about losing?
I actually was drawn to this topic through a very modest, but very familiar personal challenge. I have two boys, both very competitive, and both of whom I coach in youth sports. What was apparent is that both struggled with even the most benign of setbacks -- games of hockey, or ping-pong, or whiffle ball in our street. The opening anecdote of the book is a too-real story of my oldest son losing in a tennis match and having a small meltdown in a parking lot. Having experienced my own share of losses, I wanted to impress upon them that it's OK to lose, and how much it can even help. From there I became intrigued by how others have dealt with the dynamic, and what we all can learn from them.
2. So is this book only about losing in sports?
Not at all. Sports was a fitting entry point for me because it was the most immediate example with my kids, and because I make my living as a sports journalist (I'm an editor at Golf Digest). But I wanted to expand to topics beyond sports -- business, and politics, and even to more nebulous areas like a loss of identity or self-worth. Even the sports stories I tell are really about the universal emotion of disappointment -- about wanting something badly and having to pick up the pieces when things don't go the way you want. If you have never picked up a ball before, you can still relate to that.
3. Who is the intended audience for this book?
This book is written for people looking for inspiration. It’s for people who want to better prepare for the challenges we face, and who need reassurance that we can profit even when we don’t succeed. Graduates, men and women adrift in their careers, parents looking to instill resilience in themselves and their kids -- they’re all people who would benefit from the message of this book.
4. But losing seems like such a dark topic. How is it inspiration?
This was the biggest revelation in researching and writing this book. What I learned is the people who have emerged from some type of setback, either personally or professionally, and thrived in the aftermath provide the most uplifting stories of all. It's also the most instructive for the rest of us. I don't know if we learn from the people who seem to have it easy as much as we envy them. But when someone has landed on his backside and still has to find a way to his feet, that's a blueprint we can all follow.
5. What are some of the most uplifting stories in your book?
What I like about the assortment of stories in this book is the range they cover. You have people like the presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, the soap opera star Susan Lucci, or the golfer Greg Norman, who all lost in very public ways. Although versions of their stories have been told before, I think I was able to peel back some layers and offer insight into how those losses were processed behind closed doors. I was also really intrigued by some of the lesser-known characters, like founders of Internet startups that went bust, or the members of the Columbia University football team that lost 44 straight games. There are some really poignant examples of how losing can initially sting, but how it ultimately makes you stronger.
6. What do you hope readers take away from this book?
What I really hope is readers come away feeling emboldened enough to put themselves out there without fear of failure. Like I said, I started writing this book because I wanted to teach my boys about the value of losing. But to me, the themes discussed are not just relevant in the aftermath of a loss. It's just as much for when you're about to head into a venture -- whether it’s a game or a test or a job interview -- and you're worried about everything going wrong. What all the stories in Win at Losing reinforces is that people are much more resilient than they give themselves credit for. Knowing that, they shouldn't be afraid to throw themselves into the arena. As I quote my favorite hockey player Wayne Gretzky saying in the book, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take.” Whatever the context, what he’s really saying is the biggest mistake you can make is to not even try.