“Investing in the Loss” is a term that we discovered in Josh Waitzkin’s book, The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance. It’s had a profound influence on how we approach life and performance.
Josh is a former Chess Champion who then became a champion and master of Tai Chi Chuan. One of his biggest takeaways was that everyone who wants to perform at a high level needs to invest in the loss to succeed.
Investing in the loss is a mentality. It’s a process of acknowledging that something is going to be painful and difficult. This is where the growth comes. Through the process of humbling yourself and being ok with it.
Most people are not willing to be embarrassed, look foolish, or do anything that might result in failure. This fear is what holds them back from achieving new levels of performance. When we’re afraid, we revert back to old habits and avoid activities that might be difficult or make us uncomfortable. This is why we won’t speak new languages in public, take on new ventures, or step up in high performance situations.
In his book, Josh references how Michael Jordan, made more game winning shots then any NBA player in history, but he also missed more game winning shots in NBA history. Make or miss, Michael Jordan was willing to invest in the loss. He knew it would be painful and he would be exposed if he missed but he was willing embrace that as well.
In order to improve we need to embrace a growth mentality and invest in the loss. Acknowledge that something might painful. It might be embarrassing and you might even fail very publicly. But willing to accept that allows you to reach levels beyond where you might have imagined possible.
The words from “Man In The Arena” exemplifies investing in the loss.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I once heard the famous Olympic hurdler, Edwin Moses say something like, “The hurdles are just something I go over on my way to the finish line.”
This is a good mental framework for life. During my own life, I’ve encountered so many people who simply could not make a decision and move forward. They get fixated on the hurdle and lose sight of the finish line. They would overthink, over evaluate, and get caught in this emotional tug of war that ended with them stuck in a state of over-analysis paralysis. I would imagine this was exhausting for them mentally, physically, and probably spiritually. I would also guess a big part of their hesitancy is they didn’t want to make a mistake.
Imagine Edwin Moses, racing down the track and stopping at each hurdle, unable to commit or move forward because of the risk of falling. Instead, he was assessing, timing his steps, and moving forward with his eyes on the finish line. He didn’t allow himself to get fixated on each hurdle.
I think the ability to make decisions has been a big contributing factor to whatever success I’ve had. I decide yes or no, then I move forward.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I did my best to think through my decisions and move forward committed. Particularly when it came to my business life, I’ve always found that looking backwards didn’t serve me well at all. I’d gather all the information that I could, then I’d make the decision to move forward or not. With every decision I know that there is a possibility it doesn’t work out, but being to able to humble myself and accept the possibility of embarrassment or failure lets me move forward.
I had a comfortable job and life in Milwaukee when I had the chance to buy my first company in San Antonio. My father and I flew down to look at it and I then moved my family from Milwaukee to San Antonio. It was a huge change for all of us. We didn’t know anyone, we were leaving all our family and relatives behind, and there was always a chance it might not work out. But the opportunity came and I thought it was the right thing to do. I’m grateful because it gave me personal opportunities with my family that we would never have had in Milwaukee.
I’ve made mistakes and will probably make more, but I try not to let fear of making mistakes or indecision get in the way. “The hurdles were just something to step over”.