Remembering how to lose well.

I have just played my son at squash and lost.  What is disappointing is I am playing well and in good condition at this moment in time. I also thought I would be able to ambush him as he hasn’t played for over 4 months as he has been away in Australia (surfing and drinking). He has been taught well but then so was I.

“Everyone sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences.”

Robert Louis Stevenson


Luck comes in many forms. Some people are born rich. Some people are born beautiful. I was born to a mother who wouldn’t let me win at cards. Or tiddlywinks. Or anything. A no-nonsense northern woman, and egalitarian – my mum wouldn’t have let the Queen win, let alone me but she did it with out malice. She crushed me in a good cause. Her mantra was you may lose but you must have no regrets, except if you didn’t try your best.


But she wasn’t mean. She took the time to teach me how to play a game. And enthusiastic and knowledgeable about boxing, cricket, tennis and football she always wanted me to do well. There was a mentality to winning, she was passionate and she loved to talk strategy with me. She would point out my strengths but also my weaknesses, “you are too emotional Floyd, you must be more detached when you play me or your father. You are trying too hard to win, relax and play your best game”. but once we played, despite my father’s entreaties (“let him win, just once” “No,”) the gloves were off. You either won or you didn’t even if that meant losing your pocket money. Otherwise you’d never learn. Do better next time – because as long as you don’t give up, there’s always a next time.


From her I learned the pain of losing but also the joy of success; that the pain of losing is educative. And that consequences keeps the mind focused. Above all I learned that playing your best was the key to success. There is nothing to fear from not succeeding, only from giving up.


I can remember losing my first boxing match as a senior. I was devastated and felt I had let myself and everyone else down. My father this time spoke to me and said “Floyd even the very best lose at some stage in their career, there will always be critics who point out your mistakes but the credit is always with the person in the arena and what they do to dust themselves down and get back up. I will judge you on what you learn from this and how you come back even stronger than before”.


From then on, I spent hours and hours practising sports – I loved all sports from cricket to basketball to racquet sports to football and boxing, I feel free when practicing, it allows me to clear my mind of distractions – and once I’d learned a skill, I’d repeatedly test it before I even had to compete. Strangely, once I started doing that, it stopped being about winning, it was about seeing how good I could be. I learned the more pressure I applied, the easier it became to perform well. I would test myself to hit ten perfect shots before I could leave the court or I would stay there until I had done so.



I still don’t like losing to this day but if I’ve tried my best and lose, it softens the blow enormously.

2 thoughts on “Remembering how to lose well.

  1. ‘A banquet of consequences…’ this quote is new to me and has certainly generated some thinking especially when considering some older posts about mental health and depression. To enjoy the right kind of consequences , a banquet that is worth sitting down to- will always be costly, in terms of energy, effort and emotion.
    The way that we approach every day brings about immediate and long term consequences, for ourselves and for those around us. Seeking to approach each day as well prepared – physically, mentally and ‘spiritually’ as possible is a huge step in consistently securing a constructive, winning, day… even if some days that means simply surviving, yet ensuring the opportunity to come at it again, lessons learned, energy renewed, objectives clear…maybe sounds like Day 1 with the Ofsted Inspectors, Day 2 to come, gloves off…
    Floyd’s words in his book ‘Elite’ on being ‘fit for…’ have made a huge impact on my own physical well being and energy, through subsequent action (and pain!) and the examples in the book ‘Bounce’ remind us of the centrality of practice, effort, for high level performance. In ‘The Soul of Leadership’ Dr Deepak Chopra talks of the value of awareness – allowing the ‘soul’ to take in and use information, influencing our emotions, our decisions and our actions very often without our conscious brain realising…again requiring practise to use this approach effectively.
    Winning ways, if they are to be consistent over time, clearly come from training and practise…experiencing highs and lows, learning from them and moving forward.
    Perhaps well being, including good mental health, comes through both training and awareness? Learning not just new skills but about ourselves too, aware of our own highs and lows – being able to accept them, learn through them and move forward.
    Consistently building for a banquet of positive consequence – in work and in life – is a real challenge. Sometimes the winning day in one aspect of life may not be the winning day in another, but both are the same day! Which do we choose? How do we choose? Are we prepared to make that choice?
    To secure the best consequences of course we need to train, to practise, to be aware … we also, crucially, need to have created an honest approach to life whereby, in any given time frame or context:
    we are at peace with who we are and how we can keep growing to function at, or beyond, our own potential;
    where we are able to prioritise , clearly and realistically, confident in what we can do and in what we can reschedule, delegate or simply leave alone;
    where we are able to trust those around us, because sometimes we will need to pass the ball – for the success of the team.

    All these simple thoughts from one short quote … writing in Lent I shall try a commitment, for the first 40 days, to actively consider each day what the key decisions from today, and the possible actions for tomorrow, will be adding to my own banquet table!

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