“I didn’t win and I don’t know how they could have picked someone else over me, I was clearly the best choice.”
Why don’t we always get to win the prize, be selected at an audition, or have our proposals selected?
How can we win more often?
While there’s no surefire way of always being chosen the “winner,” there are a few points I’ve learned in pursuit of any goal.
1. Life Isn’t Fair
You may be the best choice, but others may not recognize it. Subjective assessments are, well, subjective. If you’re competing for guessing the number of Jelly Belly Jelly Beans in a jar, and you’re the only one to get the right amount. You WIN! But if you’re competing to name a new Jelly Belly Bean, suggest a new color, pick a flavor… it’s subjective. If you enter an art contest, (even if your “art” is finger-painting or business consulting), you’re judged by subjective standards and by judges who may be choosing not only by their subjective standards, but choosing a “winner” based on their own needs you have no idea about, or control over. Life isn’t fair. Get used to your fair share of losing.
2. Hone Your Craft
Maybe, what you do simply isn’t good enough to be competitive with. Today… but perhaps not tomorrow! If you can improve, it may become competitive. Listen to constructive criticism. Analyze your unsuccessful bids. Find areas that consistently crop up that decrease your chances of winning. Work to improve. Get better at your craft. If you can’t improve, for whatever reason, find something you can compete successfully with. Natural talent at anything is great… however, passion and a dedication to improvement can surpass many with “natural talents” by dint of hard work. If the other guy started out with a longer rubber band than you, but you take your “short” rubber band, and learn to stretch it, it may end up longer than the “natural talent’s” rubber band that never was stretched.
3. Timing, and Time In, the Market Matters
It’s simple math. If your chance of winning a prize is say 1 in 3, the more you enter contests, all things equal, the more likely you’ll win more frequently. The longer you simply show up, the more the market gets to know you. The more positive contributions and contacts you make in the market, the more likely you’ll start winning more often. Knowing the market you’re competitive in very well will afford opportunities other, less persistent, competitors will never see. Persistence pays. Quitting before reaping success is true “failure.”
4. “Failure” isn’t, unless You Quit for the Right Reasons
In Olympic sports, the difference between first and second place is often a fraction of a point or a second. Quitting when you’re able to constantly improve with time and effort is the only real “failure.” Failure to succeed on first, second, or multiple attempts isn’t “failure,” it’s simply learning how to ultimately succeed. That said, there are legitimate reasons to quit. Other priorities, like eating or providing for a family, cause focus to understandably shift. Acknowledging time, circumstances, or, after careful study, identification of an insurmountable obstacle, that will lead to persistent unproductive results is not simply “failure” to attain a goal, it’s simply reality.
5. When One Door Closes, Others Will OPEN
It’s kind of a cliche, isn’t it? But it’s true. I’ve found that when I’ve been keeping my nose to the grindstone, sometimes I only am looking at the grind stone. If you’re making progress on the grindstone, keep focused on the grindstone with one eye… but keep the other one open for other opportunities, goals, and ultimately, successes. The old adage in marketing is “be the first in your niche.” And if you can’t be the “first” in a niche, then create a new niche where you can be the “first!” By keeping an open mind for new opportunities to expand to, or even switch to, you’re more likely to create successes from opportunities. Ultimate success at “winning the prize” is an evolutionary process. New adaptions to circumvent or even to take competitive advantage of previous “obstacles” may lead to evolutionary breakthroughs to avoid becoming extinct!