Losing is inevitable. Serena Williams couldn’t close out her Grand Slam run at the U.S. Open. Michael Jordan didn’t always clinch the NBA Finals. Coach K doesn’t make it to the Big Dance every year. And Tiger Woods still hasn’t gotten his groove back. Highly competitive individuals have said, “Losers are the only ones who say ‘you learn more from losing than from winning; real winners just win.'” From my experience, the only way I could embrace such an approach is by arming myself with the attitude that “I have nothing to lose.” As a Millennial who is just a little bit older and a little bit wiser, I know that mentality has no place in either my professional or personal life.
A few years ago, I was in the enviable position as the winner. In advertising, I’ve come to realize when opportunities are special and distinct. This was one of those moments. I was part of a winning pitch team that usurped a 17-year incumbent. However, it was the advice I received from the outgoing agency — a so-called loser — that will forever stick with me throughout both my professional and personal life.
At age 28 I stood face-to-face with the president of the 17-year incumbent. He was at least 20 years my senior. I remember he was all smiles and enthusiastically shook my hand. He congratulated our team and the agency and encouraged us to have fun. Signs of a grudge were nowhere to be found.
As we made light conversation about the clients’ business, I asked the elder, agency leader, “What’s the one thing you’d recommend we do to achieve the longevity your agency has enjoyed for nearly two decades?” He hesitated and thoughtfully considered my question, acknowledging the value of my inquiry. Something about the nature of his pause made me believe he knew the intent of my question was genuine.
He eventually looked me in the eyes and responded, “Love. Love your clients. Love their work, their ideas, their business, their products, and their families. Love everything. They can smell a poser from a mile away.” It was a rare moment in business where the impact of grace and gratitude worked together so well.
More than two years later, I remember his words and keep them with me as I deepen relationships with both colleagues and clients. As a Millennial, it’s advice that continues to help me overcome challenges on numerous occasions. I now know such advice has little to do with winning a new client. It was as much a declaration of love for the work as it was for any single account.