The secret that every great winner knows

A great place to learn about winning is from losers.


Yeah, that’s how you really learn what it’s like to win. You don’t learn nearly as much from the triumphs and celebrations. As someone that has lost many times as a college athlete, coach, businessman and human being in the world, I know that greatest losses have led to the greatest wins.

And the truth is, all of us will lose in life. There’s no such world that exists where winners perpetually reign supreme. There are few greater places to learn this than from the life story of Charlie Munger, the partner of Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway.

This is a man who refused to let devastating setbacks weigh him down. He kept moving forward in his personal and professional life despite tremendous adversity. He fought in World War II and dealt with the horrors that accompany fighting for your life each day. He lost his son tragically due to leukemia at the age of 9 — a devastating setback for any person.

He suffered through divorce, lost his father at a young age, and seemingly had no direction in his professional or personal life. In his 50s, he lost most of his money. He lost his EYE in a botched cataracts surgery — and yet he kept going. He learned and learned and perfected his investment strategy and became synonymous with American success. A true self-made man.

What’s next for you? What’s waiting for you? Chances are, something well worth your time. Life is one big series of “Next’s.” You’re best to embrace opportunity with an open mind and willing heart. With a clear, objective mind, we might think, “Why would we ever want to stew and dwell in the past on negative things?”

There’s a whole new world out there for you to conquer.The key to a productive, mindful life is to keep moving forward and leave past problems behind. So many of the issues and uncertainties we encounter in life are because we dwell in the past on trivial, insignificant things — things that never help us in the present moment.

And that’s all that matters. Right now, this week, living this moment with all you got. We’re emotional people by nature, so it’s not surprising we often let our emotions “get the better” of us. This manifests itself in two ways: we long for the positive experiences or we painfully hang on to the negative ones.

Positive Experiences:

  • Falling in love
  • Childhood memories of family, school and activities
  • Accomplishments

Negative Experiences:

  • Failing at a job, school or entrepreneurial venture
  • Break-up with a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Loss of life of someone close to us


“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” — Buddha

On the positive side, I think of maturing into a man and needing to leave past glories behind. High school. College. Grad school. These were great times that I didn’t want to end. But it was essential to move on and live in the present moment!

What do those positive moments look like for you? They could be major accomplishments at work that earned you bonuses and recognition. Perhaps it was the presence of a mentor or special friend who genuinely loved and cared for you. But has since moved on.

These experiences have a huge impact on our lives. They are memories written on our souls and forever in our hearts.

Just know this, once you’ve locked in those moments forever — the longer you dwell in the past, the more you lose in the present. Time, progress, meeting new friends, developing relationships and pursuing opportunities. In the abstract, it may not seem like a big deal. But time, as Steve Jobs famously said, is our most precious commodity. We have to move on. Because time stops for no one.


On the negative side, we have the nicks, scrapes and bruises that wounded us and knocked us down. Past defeats, failures or mistakes. Like getting fired from a job. A break-up with a past boyfriend. That embarrassing miscue at a social outing a few years ago that you can’t seem to let go. Keep moving forward, keep going toward what’s next.

“That’s what learning is, after all; not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we’ve changed because of it, and what we take away from it that we never had before, to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way is winning.” — Richard Bach

Adversity is the greatest teacher we have in life! Losing, in so many ways, is winning. We have to absorb the shock, make sense of it, derive value from it, then turn our attention to what’s happening now. It’s one thing to learn from our experiences. It’s a totally different story when we let what’s negative dominate our conscious and subconscious minds — haunting us.

Controlling us. Limiting our future.

Dwelling in the past has a way of making us anxious. Anxiety leads to a sort of mental paralysis where we find ourselves stuck. We start to fear and doubt outcomes. We’re vulnerable in the worst way possible — not wanting to face the day ahead. I’ve been there, done that. Maybe you know the feeling, maybe you have too. It feels like you’re always losing.

We find that the secret to winning is buried deep within the losses that all of us will suffer in life. You never find that out until after you’ve lost, and have the gumption and courage to actually do something about it. You must be willing to figure out why, how, and what to do next. You have have an insatiable desire and hunger, a curiosity and will to win.

That’s the story of Charlie Munger. It’s the story of Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, Suze Orman and thousands of other remarkable success stories.

The secret of winning is losing — and what you do about next.

This article originally appeared on Medium.