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Learning Through Loss

May 16, 2022 11:34 AM | Dena A Culpepper (Administrator)

By Dustin Paschal

Earlier this month, I was on the ballot in my municipality’s local school board election. I ran for an open seat, and I spent the last six to seven months campaigning. Campaigning cost me money, time from my friends and family, time away from work, and time away from my other volunteer activities. I was happy to do it, though, because I felt like I could make a difference, and I felt that this was a place I could give back. I lost. Since this was a school board election, I also lost very publicly.  

News flash – this was not the first time I have lost. I lost an election for a student leadership position in college. I lost a moot court competition my first year in law school. 

I lost out on several jobs coming out of law school. As a practicing attorney early in my career, I lost an election for an executive leadership position on the young lawyer board. I have lost hearings and trials. Right about now, you are probably wondering how I have any clients at all with this kind of record. 

Well, I have had plenty of wins too. After the loss in college, I joined a different organization and ultimately became its president. After the moot court competition loss, I entered the competition the following year and made it into the Top 10 of individual speakers. I have won hearings and trials. More importantly, I have a successful law firm and in a few short months we will celebrate our nine-year anniversary.

Losing is a fact of life. I have yet to meet anyone in my life who has not lost something. 

In fact, after my recent election loss, two well-respected mayors told me stories about their early election losses. 

Since we are in the middle of Mental Health Awareness month, talking about loss seems particularly important. 

I did not and have not always lost gracefully and losing has often caused me pain. I am here to tell you; it is okay to be hurt by loss.  

While losing is a fact of life and losing may hurt, losing is worthwhile if you learn from it and grow from it

Losing is a lesson. To make it worthwhile, though, you must examine the loss and determine what the lesson is.

Did you take the wrong approach?
Did you make mistakes along the way?
Were you ready for the challenge?
Are you in the wrong career/industry/volunteer organization?
Did you have the right people around you?
Can you make a bigger difference somewhere else or by doing something else?
Is this the right time?

Losing does not always mean that you did something wrong or made the wrong choices. Sometimes, there are circumstances beyond your control and factors at play that are outcome determinative. It is important to acknowledge that and accept that. Sometimes, losing is a gentle nudge to push you in another direction or to encourage you to chase that dream.

It is just as important, though, to determine where you did make mistakes so that you can correct those moving forward. 

As Frank Sonnenberg says, “Practice doesn’t make perfect if you’re doing it wrong.”

It is also critical that you do not let the loss define you and that you do not get mired in the pain. I have always found that I am more driven and more motivated after a loss. After the initial pain, there is a fire in my belly to achieve. I encourage you to use your loss as kindling to light your own fire.

Losing can make you stronger and more resilient. 

Losing can make you a better person. 

As odd as it sounds, I hope that I never stop losing and I hope you feel the same about your life.


This blog is sponsored by Eleserv.