We aren’t built to fail. General Patton put it best when he said, “the thought of losing is hateful to Americans.” It’s true. No one wants to put effort into something they might not achieve. Thankfully some people conquer that omnipresent specter of discouragement and retry no matter how many times they experience a loss. It’s these people, your Benjamin Franklins, Thomas Edisons, Henry Fords, that acknowledge, embrace, and cast off failure as an inevitability, a catalyst, and an encouragement. For the rest of us, we might recognize the presence of grand scale failure such as divorce or bankruptcy, but we’re almost always blind to the everyday Ls. Fails come in all shapes and sizes. When you’re confronted with one it’s important to make sure you know how to take an L.
First, you’re going to want to acknowledge the fail. So many people waste precious time denying they’ve just been confronted with an L they never really gain the ability to get over it. Embrace that loss, come to terms with not only your own humanity, but your environment. The sooner you own that L the quicker you can plan its defeat. Flip those five stages of grief on its head and charge right into the acceptance stage. You failed, now is the time to adapt and overcome.
To help your acknowledgement, you need to be truly honest with yourself about what’s going on. It may seem like the root of this L lies in your fortune and favor having been long forsaken by the Universe, but that’s just not the case. You’re not late to work because God felt like screwing with you. You didn’t get the wrong coffee order because of some nefarious plot by the barista either. Deflecting the cause of the L also deflects the responsibility of the solution. If you attribute your traffic and breakfast woes to the nearest third party, you’ve just made it clear who is supposed to fix the problem. Only the guy whose car broke down in the middle lane can’t suddenly get out of everyone’s way and the coffee company isn’t going to deliver you your correct order.
Once you’ve recognized the reality of your L, you can begin working on a solution. As with any situation, one of the first solutions to consider is nothing. People vastly underestimate how much nothing can accomplish. Not every situation calls for a Stage 5 level of action. Make sure to keep your L in perspective. Traffic caught you and you’re going to be a little bit late? Okay, might be an inconvenience, might ruffle a few feathers, but at the end of the day what does it really amount to? Showing up late to work generally gets nothing worse than some vague and superficial reprimand from your closest superior. Plus, the later you get there, the less hours you spend with your nose to the grindstone. If nothing isn’t for you and you feel there’s an amount of intervention that could tip the odds in your favor, remember to refer back to your perspective. There’s no need to bring an Abrams to a knife fight. Screaming a canon of profanities at the driver in front of you won’t resolve the matter if the cause is 2mi ahead, just like degrading the barista’s existence on the planet wont bring that limited edition frap flavor that’s been gone for 2months, despite your insistence they have “like, totally all the ingredients necessary to make it”.
Life is a balance. Every situation has its good and bad, its Yin and Yang. It’s all about taking the time to recognize just how far your L has tipped your scale. We live in an age where our world has never been smaller. While this is good for global communication, it can be harmful to our ability to cope with the Ls in our lives. What were once seemingly innocuous occurrences are now taken as existentially threatening because the ratio of our world is so badly skewed. Next time you’re staring down a leviathan of a failure, take a little dose of humility and remind yourself of the vastness in which you reside. It’ll go a long way to the continuing of your education in how to take an L.