High Achievers Hate Losing More Than They Love Winning

Does failure inspire you or defeat you?


Don Yaeger is an award-winning speaker and NY Times best-selling author, and has worked with great athletic icons such as Coach John Wooden, John Smoltz and Michael Jordan. He learned from those high achievers that failure and loss ends up motivating them more than the sheer desire to win.

“They expect to be successful,” says Don. “The truly great ones, success doesn't give them the thrill that it gives other people.” Don explains that loss and failure are inevitable, but it’s very telling about a person to see how they respond to failure. Does it motivate you to get back up, dust yourself off and get better so it doesn’t happen again? Or does it knock you down for the count.

Hear from Don about the high achievers he has seen in his career and how they respond to the failure.

So I'll tell you one leadership lesson that I have learned over the course of understanding high achievers—high performers—is that they learned early in their life or they learned at some stage early in their career that they hate losing more than they love winning. They expect to be successful. The truly great ones, success doesn't give them the thrill that it gives other people.

Failure, on the other hand, failure leaves a mark. When they fail, they use those moments to be instructive, to teach them.

Michael Jordan shared once with me, we were talking about this discussion. He said, "You know, a loss is not failure until you make an excuse." What a powerful way to think about it. Losses, they're real. Losses happen.

If we're in competition, anything we do, if we're willing to throw ourselves out there, we're going to lose. It happens. What do you do with it? The great ones don't make an excuse when they fail, and that is how they learn to hate losing, because if you take excuses off the table when you fail, then you're in a situation where you actually own the failure. You learn to hate it. If you can blame somebody else, make an excuse for it, you never own it.

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a nationally acclaimed inspirational speaker and author of 24 books, nine of which have become New York Times best-sellers. He is currently a Forbes contributing writer and a former associate editor for Sports Illustrate...

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