反败为胜的艺术The Art of Turning Losing into Winning

2017-08-04 23:15:24


◎ By David G. Allan 译 / 崔丞


Nobody likes to lose. Whether it’s a game of poker, the affections of another or an election, a loss can feel like an embarrassing stain that won’t come out. Or like a medical condition we need to quickly treat with a rematch, with a pint of ice cream or by declaring the whole thing rigged1).

But there are many silver linings in the dark clouds of loss2), and when you total them up, losing can start to look a lot more like winning.

In 1960, Richard Nixon lost a very close and bitter presidential election amid accusations (by others, not himself) of voter fraud in some states. But Nixon took the high road3): “I want Senator Kennedy to know, and I want all of you to know, that ... (if) he does become our next president, that he will have my wholehearted support and yours, too.” It was a calculated move that paved the way to his election in 1968. He could have made a stink4), but instead he took a longer view and saw the seeds of a comeback planted in the soil of that defeat.

Every loss, no matter the size and scope, opens opportunities to still come out ahead. That’s not just good for your ego; it’s just plain good for you.

The Act of Concession5)

Common courtesy calls for a handshake between winner and loser after a contest. It’s a simple gesture that holds a lot of meaning. It is an exercise in defusing any lingering animosity6). It makes it possible for both parties to move on with dignity.

To refuse to acknowledge the accomplishment of the winner is to give birth to a grudge7). And nothing good, for either side, ever comes out of a lingering grudge.

But the moment of concession is also a chance at redemption for the loser. It allows them to be a role model of humility and grace. It proves them nobler than their loss might suggest. Conceding is actually a power move demonstrating that you are not defined by losing. You are bigger than that.

“A tree is best measured when it is down, and so it is with people,” wrote the poet and author Carl Sandburg8), who won a Pulitzer Prize for a biography of Abraham Lincoln, a man who had his share of wins born out of deep losses.

To lose an election—a very public defeat that can be personally devastating—raises the stakes enormously. The act of concession there is both necessary for a peaceful transition of power and an opportunity for the loser to show everyone that he or she is sagacious9) enough to put the greater good above all else.

One of the best concession speeches ever given, presidential or otherwise, was delivered in 1952 by Adlai Stevenson10). “That which unites us as American citizens is far greater than that which divides us as political parties, ” he said. “I urge you all to give to General Eisenhower the support he will need to carry out the great tasks that lie before him. I pledge him mine.” The New Yorker’s political commentator Hendrik Hertzberg called Stevenson “the most beautiful loser.”

By contrast, Hope Solo, the goalkeeper for the US women’s national soccer team, called her triumphant opponents “cowards” after her team lost to Sweden at the Olympic quarterfinal game in Rio in 2016. The rebuke11) to her unsportsmanlike behavior went beyond the ire12) of fans; the US Soccer Federation suspended her for six months and terminated her contract with the team. For failing to transcend her loss, she doubled it.

Losing Is LearningAnyone who plays chess, or nearly any game of strategy, knows that the more you play, the more you learn how to win. And if you play someone who is better than you (and therefore find yourself mostly losing), you will learn a lot more about winning. Every defeat brings you one step closer to success.

Thinking about loss that way as chess pieces on the board is a helpful metaphor for making losing less personal, too. Losing some contest doesn’t make you a loser. You are still you, not whatever challenge was lost.

The sooner you can dust yourself off and figure out why you lost, the sooner you’ll be able to refocus on what matters and—now more experienced—win. In a Buddhist context, we will continue to be reincarnated13) until we can break the cycle of unknowing; each of our lives holding the keys to one door closer to enlightenment or another farther away.

Winning and Losing Are False Distinctions

The idea that losing is a necessary part of winning begins to blur the lines of what is a loss and what is a win. A victory can have unforeseen consequences that feel more like a loss over time (which is why people say “be careful what you wish for”). And, conversely, the loser now will be later to win, as Bob Dylan put it.

There are countless examples of this phenomenon. Many lottery winners face personal difficulties they attribute to their windfall14). Individuals with devastating mental and physical challenges often describe how overcoming them made them stronger for it. And maybe that awful breakup made it possible to find true love.

This yin-and-yang way of seeing the world, in which good and bad are so entwined15) that they are contained in one another, is beautifully illustrated in an ancient Taoist story about a farmer whose horse runs away. The lost horse, which seems like a setback, causes something that seems like an advantage, which then causes something that seems bad and so on.

The point is that we should really question the reality of a win or loss, knowing that time and circumstance have a way of making them become the opposite.

Rise from the AshesLosing can also be the catalyst of a new beginning. The higher the stakes of the loss, the greater opening it creates for a restart, a reinvention, a fresh beginning in another direction.

The phoenix is the mascot16) of winning losers everywhere. Take a moment to pause in the ashes of a loss to contemplate what new, amazing life can grow out of it. That’s a powerful consolation17) prize.

Jimmy Carter is beloved the world over despite a presidency that experts and conventional wisdom deemed a failure. His legacy is solidified by a post-presidential life of great deeds including international diplomacy, building homes for the homeless and nearly eradicating deadly diseases. Losing re-election in 1980 brought about a 36-year winning streak18).

True Grit

Finally, there are some virtues that grow more easily out of the compost of losing. Humility is an obvious one. Empathy is another, as loss creates bonds with others facing a similar loss. And when you expand your perspective and understanding around loss, you become wiser, another virtue to have in your resiliency tool kit.

Then there is grit. For even if there are no clear lessons learned from a loss or no upsides that later emerge, at the very least, you can learn how to deal with it more effectively. Because eventually, another loss will come, and you want to be ready.

The development of such fortitude19) is encapsulated by my favorite line in one of my favorite novels, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath20). The story chronicles the western migration of many farmers during the Great Depression21), a period of profound losing for many Americans.

One of the setbacks for the main characters, the Joad family, is when their car breaks down, again. They don’t have the means to fix it, and a pall is cast over22) the group until the grandmother snaps them out of it23). “This here bearing went out. We did’n’ know it was go in’, so we did’n’ worry none. Now she’s out an’ we’ll fix her. An’ by Christ that goes for the rest of it. ”

The thicker your skin24), the more perspective you have, the more you improve yourself—and the more you’ll be winning as you wrestle with losing.

1. rigged [rɪɡd] adj. (用舞弊手段)操纵的;被垄断的

2. silver linings in the dark clouds of loss:源自谚语“Every cloud has a silver lining”,意为“困境背后存在的希望”。

3. take the high road:采取最好(或最有把握)的途径

4. make a stink:强烈抱怨,大吵大闹

5. concession [kənˈseʃ(ə)n] n. 让步

6. animosity [ˌænɪˈmɒsəti] n. 仇恨,敌意;憎恶

7. grudge [ɡrʌdʒ] n. 怨恨,嫌恶;妒忌

8. Carl Sandburg:卡尔·桑德博格(1878~1967),诗人,传记作家,代表作品为《芝加哥诗集》和《林肯传》。

9. sagacious [səˈɡeɪʃəs] adj. 有远见的,精明的

10. Adlai Stevenson:阿德莱·史蒂文森(1900~1965),美国政治家,以其辩论技巧闻名,曾于1952年和1956年两次代表美国民主党参选美国总统,但皆败给艾森豪威尔,后被任命为美国驻联合国大使,在古巴导弹危机中发挥了重要作用。

11. rebuke [rɪˈbjuːk] n. 指责;训斥

12. ire [ˈaɪə(r] n. 愤怒,怒火,盛怒

13. reincarnate [ˌriːɪnkɑː(r)ˈneɪt] vt. 使转世化身

14. windfall [ˈwɪn(d)ˌfɔːl] n. 意外之财,意外获得的东西

15. entwine [ɪnˈtwaɪn] vt. 使交错,使纠缠,使紧密结合

16. mascot [ˈmæskɒt] n. 吉祥物

17. consolation [ˌkɒnsəˈleɪʃ(ə)n] n. 安慰,慰藉;慰问

18. streak [striːk] n. 一连串,一系列

19. fortitude [ˈfɔː(r)tɪtjuːd] n. 坚韧,刚毅

20. The Grapes of Wrath:《愤怒的葡萄》,美国现代小说家约翰·斯坦贝克创作的长篇小说,发表于1939年,该作品获得1940年美国普利策文学奖。

21. the Great Depression:大萧条时期,指1929年至1933年之间发源于美国并波及许多资本主义国家的经济危机。

22. cast a pall over:给……蒙上阴影

23. snap sb. out of it/sth.:(使)抛掉不愉快情绪,(使)摆脱郁闷心境

24. a thick skin:厚脸皮,不计较面子


















认为失败是通往成功的必经之路的这种看法模糊了失败与成功的界限。 胜利可能会有无法预知的后果,随着时间的推移这结果越发像失败(这也就是为什么人们说“小心你所期盼的东西”)。同时,反之亦然,此刻的失败者也许终将获胜,就像鲍勃·迪伦歌里唱的那样。














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