June 3rd, 2008
06:17 PM ET

The art of losing well

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/03/art.hillary3.jpg]
Bruce Weinstein
The Ethics Guy, BusinessWeek

Why does Hillary continue to run, when the odds against her winning the Democratic Party’s nomination are so slim? Perhaps it’s because she truly believes she is the best person to be the next President of the United States. Perhaps it’s because she is convinced that, with continued determination, she can succeed at this formidable task. But the reason could be much simpler.

She may consider losing to be a form of personal failure.

If so, she is clearly not alone in feeling this way. We live in a culture that celebrates winners and chastises losers. “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing” might well be the unofficial motto of this country. Indeed, everyone loves a winner, but losers are viewed with scorn and derision. This is more than unfortunate; it’s unfair. I will argue that we should rethink losing and that we ought to embrace our losses, rather than run from them.

UCLA football coach Henry “Red” Sanders (who, not Vince Lombardi, coined the expression) was mistaken in holding winning to be “the only thing.” No one would rationally want to live in a world in which winning is our sole objective. There are other considerations that are as, or more, important than winning, whether the subject is football, corporate management, dating, or any other social activity.

The five fundamental principles of ethics are:

Do No Harm
Make Things Better
• Respect Others: 1, 2
• Be Fair: 1, 2
Be Compassionate

If winning were truly “the only thing”, then there would be no problem with hurting other people, cheating, lying, or stealing to achieve this objective. As we’ve seen too often over the past several years, however, the politicians, CEO’s, and athletes who have made a fetish out of winning at all costs have lost their careers, their marriages, their reputations, and sometimes even their freedom. The outrage over steroid use in baseball is fueled by the recognition that winning at the expense of fairness is just plain wrong. Getting rich by destroying the pensions of one’s own employees is, as Enron’s Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling discovered, winning at its worst.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the idea of winning, but if we ignore the ethical responsibilities of avoiding harm, being honest, and treating others fairly, we will forfeit the most important thing of all: our own integrity.

With the above considerations in mind, I propose the following rules for rising to the challenge when you don’t reach a goal you’re trying to achieve:

1. BE ANGRY…BUT NOT FOR TOO LONG. It’s understandable to be upset when you lose, but dwelling on the loss, obsessing over it, or making it the focus of your life is more hurtful than helpful. As difficult as it may be to deal effectively with anger in every situation, it is in your own interest not to let anger get the best of you.

2. ACCEPT REALITY. We often tell ourselves, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Unfortunately, we have less control over our lives than we’d like to believe, and there is nothing we can do to alter this. There *is* such a thing as a zeitgeist (literally “spirit of the times”), and all the determination in the world cannot make other people do, say, or vote for something if they don’t want to. It should lessen the blow to realize that there is only so much we can do to affect the change we seek.

3. LOOK FOR THE LESSON. Yes, we learn by winning. (Think about how you surprised yourself the last time you accomplished something you thought would be too difficult to achieve.) But we also learn by losing, if we have the courage to pay attention. In looking honestly at a failed attempt to get a job or develop a romantic relationship, the lesson could be that we need to rethink our approach, or that we need to change something about ourselves. The best way to succeed next time, or to learn how to handle defeat better, is to find the lesson from our loss and take it to heart.

4. CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK. The ethical responsibilities to be fair and compassionate apply to how we treat ourselves, not just others. Berating yourself for losing isn’t a kind or decent way to treat yourself, and doing so prevents you from getting back into action, which can lead to further losses.

5. KEEP ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF LIFE. How many successful people do you know who are burdened by the weight of their past failures? If you let losing get the best of you, it will be all but impossible to go forward. Allow yourself to feel angry, but accept reality, learn from the experience, don’t be too hard on yourself, and move on.

These guidelines are intended to help you make the best of a losing situation. Let’s not forget, though, that the first order of business after losing is to congratulate the winner. Anyone can win. It takes a person of courage and grace to accept defeat and honor the victor. Such a person is will move beyond loss and emerge a stronger and better person…and be a true winner.

This is an adaptation of an article that first appeared on BusinessWeek.com.

Write to Bruce@TheEthicsGuy.com.

Program note: Bruce Weinstein is a guest on CNN's American Morning, Wednesday, June 4, beginning at 6a ET

Filed under: Bruce Weinstein • Ethics • Hillary Clinton • Raw Politics
soundoff (254 Responses)
  1. Norma Hajik

    I am very disappointed that Hillary would not secede the nomination on a night that was truly Barack Obama's to shine. He clearly won the nomination and she didn't have the decency to drop out and begin to form party unity. She has in effect committed political suicide tonight in many people's eyes. Her as Vice President? Please NO !!!

    June 3, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  2. Kimberly

    Hillary Clinton embodies old-school politics. She feels slighted since the political muscle exerted throughout her campaign with political heavyweights like her husband did not pay off in the end. She is the person who keeps fighting the fight even after everyone has left to go home because the Clinton ego demands as such. In her corner, she has quite the number of supporters rallying and instead of embracing them in the spirit of what truly is a historical moment, she is seemingly using them to advance her own cause. Whether that is to secure a post such as the vice presidency, only she can know. What is absolutely certain though, is that the cause is her own. Despite the end of her campaign, she still has an agenda. As we have seen, she will try to advance that agenda at all costs. Is tenacity the right word at this point?

    June 3, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  3. black male

    unfortunate that these white women feel so entitled that they refuse to vote for barrack. it's ridiculous. barrack has done nothing to you. he has always taken the high road. and you want to vote for mccain because barrack won by the rules that he did not make up. sad. talking about a desperate housewife!
    -black male with a phd

    June 3, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  4. Elaine

    I voted for Obama in Primary. I will NOT vote for Obama is he choices Hilary Clinton as his running mate, VP. NO HOW, NO WAY!!!
    I voted for CHANGE===No more Clintonism–No more Bushism

    June 3, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  5. tina

    "If you cant take the heat get out of the kitchen"
    Would everyone on Cooper 360 be so generous if Hillary was a man?
    As a mid 30 female, I find it sexist to treat her with kid gloves during this "difficult time" Please, lets call it like it is, lets call it what it is, for all her public service- she sure does seem quit self serving right now. Why does she need days to come to the terms with something we have all known for weeks. What would happen if that phone of hers rang at 3am, tell us to hold for a couple days, until she can adjust.
    Please, Hillary, give it up, the longer this goes on the the worse you come across.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  6. Raymond

    For a Clinton it is hard to accept defeat. Heck they have been winning for years. What makes it worse is that she got the smack down put on her by someone she felt was not an equal and someone who should have not stood a chance. Maybe she needs to look in the miror and think about the word CHANGE.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  7. Roni Morgan

    I just hope someone would say also thanks to Jamal, he's been there
    always on the show giving his best on CNN. Always staying positive even when Barack Obama was behind. I finally can say we already knew that Hillary was a bad sport:-)

    June 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  8. Jason--Riverview, FL

    WHY are these PUNDANTS...Dogging Hillary AGAIN? This is the REASON why Hillary Supporters have a HARD time supporting Obama and HIs campaign.

    He was Placed over by SUPER DELEGATES today. None of them wanted to come out infront of the cameras and state their pledge.

    She has over 17 Million supprters including me...WHY should she give him all of the GLORY? She is a Strong leader... When you hear Jeffery Tubins comments, it adds to what Bill Clinton has said about this media BIAS towards Obama...

    June 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  9. Jerry

    Hillary was the best candidate for the Democrat Party. Obama has divided this country by color. After watching Rev Wrigh, Obamas mentor and spirital adviser, there is no way that BO can convice me that he deserves a chance at being President.

    I travel all over the United States for work. I have talked to many, many people that just do not trust Obama. He has ties to Racism and Corruption. He lied about Wright and Rezko. He is not going to be able to overcome the White Voters like myself who see a man who speaks well, but does not identify with my values. I think America is ready for a Black or Hispanic President. But, I would never support Barrack Hussein Obama.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  10. Mary H from TN

    To Kathy in Tennessee, Hillary was anything but gracious tonight!!! It should have been HIS night to shine and she had to put a cloud over it. It is all about her trying to get what she wants (even after the voting is over) and not about the party. She is ruining and has all along!!! I for one tells her "no thanks" as far as putting her on the ticket as VP. I am an "older woman" that fit her "constitutuency" but I have and will continue to support Obama. After seeing how she and her has conducted herself in this campaign, I wouldn't vote for her for "dog catcher"!!

    June 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  11. tammy

    I am a black woman. Frankly I believe that environment determines more than race, but since we use race to define ourselves what can we do. I admire senator Clinton for her tenacity and strength as a mother, wife and career person. But I don't like how she deals with confrontation. I think that she cannot see past herself in many situations. This is dangerous for a commander in chief. The way that she is handling the campaign is just an example of that. She has her own personal agenda and places it on the backs of women and white working class, who very well may have legitimate issues, but not specific to Hilliary's agenda. I am sorry that so many women feel that Hilliary's struggle is some way related to their own personal struggles, because in the bigger picture it is not.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  12. Judy

    If she wasn't a Clinton with all the Clinton baggage, she, in all evitability, would have been the nominee. As a woman, I should have supported her but I just couldn't after all her "stand by her man" stuff. The Clinton ego does not allow them to lose gracefully and Bill was her biggest liability. Please just let them go away!

    June 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  13. Ross

    Wonderful article ... brings a new meaning to concept of winning and losing.

    In the context of the democratic race ... it really raises the question why the media is so quick to jump on Cltion as somewhat who has "lost" the race rather than someone who fought when it seemed there was no hope left; who fought for what she believed and continues to fight despite what popular opinion wants her to do ...in my opinion .... her courageand strength against all adversaries is alone sufficient to put her in the coveted seat abut unfortunately the !!media is not telling Americans how to fight for a cause but how to get out at the earliest and throw in the flag.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  14. Lee, WI

    I think HRC had a greate speach, Obama sounded good but it seemed to be a lot of hot air. Obama will never win my vote even with HRC as VP. McCain will win in November

    June 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  15. Susie Hortman

    Hey! Stop picking on Hillary Clinton. She wanted this election so bad she could taste it. Don't fault her for that. She held out hope until the last minute. She hasn't given up yet. You all are against her for political gain and media coverage. Obama, if he is as wise as he seems, would not want to participate in the conversation you all
    are involved in.

    Hillary Clinton is feeling a deep disappointment. At least she isn't fake and just jumps in and says all the things, the media expects her to say. So Hillary, be yourself-ignore them. I am proud of you because you understand how serious your next decisions are. I am proud of you for not making hasty decisions and being so full of stamina. I am for you!

    Susie Hortman

    June 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  16. Krystal

    I really lost a lot of respect for her. I could not believe to tone she used. It was as if she was trying to force the vp spot. This is a sad time for her. I know it is hard to lose, but there is pride in the way you act in the eye of defeat.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  17. Dee from Canada

    Winning isn't the only thing. In Hillary's speech it was all about her and what she had accomplished. She forgot to leave her ego at the door. There are real problems in America – and the world. We need leadership that can acknowledge the pain people are experiencing. It is not about female or race. I liked that Obama has never said vote for me because I am black and male – he has said vote for me because I want to bring the country together; I want to make things better. Let's rise above race and gender (and egos) and do some good.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  18. Rosalie

    i echo Kathy of Tennessee in that I have worked on Hillary's campaign and I am proud of her speech tonight. Why do we suddenly have to fall in step and be "politically correct" if this is about change. Why can't we be proud of her and allow her the time to formulate what her next statement will be. Obama has the spot so now can't we be inclusive enough to work with the millions who supported her. I think Obama would welcome this and not be as thin skinned as the commentators I have heard on CNN tonight. Please get a grip.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  19. Chris in Midland, TX

    I just want some of you Democratic supporters to think about what you're saying when you declare that you're going to vote for McCain as opposed to Obama just because Clinton didn't win it. Get over *yourselves*! This campaign isn't just about you. What manner of selfish protest is that? What is that going to achieve in the grand scheme of what this campaign is really all about? This isn't about just Obama, or Hillary, or McCain. Okay not totally, I'll be *that* real about all this. These are the individuals involved in what will be the next directional turn for the United States. Should you opt to back McCain, then you've missed the entire point. Obviously the last 7 plus years have actually been okay with you. And you'd like to see more of it. I really hope you don't get what you're now asking for. I was a Clinton supporter, too. I'm still a supporter. But we need to move on to the real fight. Go Obama!

    June 3, 2008 at 11:09 pm |
  20. Karl Clark

    She's shameful and a sore loser. Will she help to mend this party or will she maintain her catalyst to destroy this party. She must now choose.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:09 pm |
  21. AG

    Clintons have no grace any more or statesmanship any more

    June 3, 2008 at 11:09 pm |
  22. Lorenzo Clemons

    I find it even more amazing to hear some of the women talk about why they are for Hillary Clinton, because she represents the best hope for American and African-American Children. That is so admirable, but what is more impressive for African-American Children is to see a successful man who loves his one and only wife, his children and worked hard at his educational pursuits. My God, here is a black man with a Harvard Law degree, living on the South-side of Chicago working for the interest of all people, with a special interest in African-American people. He in his speech tonight showed great ethics in reaching out to the Clintons. I wish they had a better handle on the party and not their selfish political agenda.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:09 pm |
  23. Robert

    I noticed Hillary brought up again she got the popular vote tonight. But how accurate is that in truth? The popular vote is not taking tonight account what votes Obama may have gotten in Michigan for example. Yet counting votes in peurtorico who do not even vote in the general election.

    In the end Hillary lost Obama now shows on cnn with 2132 more than enough its time for her to pull out and frankly tonight in light of the very obvious loss I found her speech to charged with her typical me me me even when she declares shes doing things for her supporters her general speech just keeps saying look at me and my ego.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:09 pm |
  24. Dewitt Wood Jr.

    Hey Kathy she is not a good role model for my two girls. A do not want my girls to grow up looking up to a liar and a soar loser like Hillary and Bill clinton. If you think that she is a good person, she only pondered to people like you with words that she knew would get those last couple of states to feel simpathy and vote for her. She's aClinton and he's a BLACK MAN in White America, come on. Who has it harder. Why is everybody acting. WOW.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  25. tildon

    How dare it be Hillary's night? She is such a SORE LOSER!! And to think how she is imposing herself into being on the ticket as VP!! Since when has the media ( u guys) even suggest that it would b a good idea for her to be on the ticket! Give me a break! I think Obama is intelligent enough to choose whom he wants to partner with. Stop choosing for him! Basically,u r saying that Obama has a chance like a cold day in hell if he DOES NOT put Hilary on the ticket! YOu'remy "BOO" too Anderson!!! Concede graciously my "SISTA"

    June 3, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  26. Josh Peck

    Hillary did a good thing tonight. Had she conceded on TV the headline tomorrow would read "Clinton Concedes". Now the headlines will read more like "Obama Wins" or "Obama Makes History".

    I think Hillary will withdraw once Obama reached the number of delegates he needs to win if Michigan and Florida were counted at 100%, which should happen tomorrow or the next day.

    Go Obama/Clinton 2008!

    A strong Clinton Supporter in Montana

    June 3, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  27. Sharon

    First, Anderson, Happy Birthday, sorry I called you Jon previously. (smile)

    Now, there is no way to lose gracefully when you have done everything you could to win such a hard race. I do, however, feel that Senator Clinton should have made some mention of a concession It truly did come across as a veiled threat.

    There is no need for such things. If this country does not make a change, we may not have to worry about 2012. Does Hillary not know that the world is watching the divide going on in our party? sure she does. does she care? obviously not.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  28. Leo

    This is an important moment, and not because theres a black candidate or whatever trife that (being generous here) halfbrained woman relayed.

    It is important because (from what ive seen and im not infalible) an outsider (Ie not a corporate controlled member of the tudor bloodline), has gotten into the best positioned party.

    I hope to see the day when we as mankind stop fighting for this thin film of bio-diversity on an undersized planet with an undersized sun.

    Good luck and hold your fire for 6 more months plz plz bush for your sake and mine.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  29. C. Baptiste-Williams

    Hillary has once again proved that this race is not about America, not about the Democratic party but about her.

    She should have gracefully bowed out today and acknowledged the historic event that just happened tonight.

    I hope and pray she is not chosen as VP.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  30. cameron wolfe

    dadedi, it is not our business how our what the leaders of our nation sleep with. Why is it that we were more upset with bill fornicating with his secretary than we were with bush after he destabilized the entire planet. bush isnt getting impeached yet what he did will hurt gravely the generations to come and what bill did is for less damaging.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  31. Robert Nelson

    I would just like to say, how proud I am of our country and how far we have come, yet so far to go. At 26yrs old, I have never been so inspired by two presidential nominee's, and just would like to say Thank You via CNN

    June 3, 2008 at 11:07 pm |
  32. J.P.

    I am puzzled by another post where the author questions why Hillary supporters do not support or are reluctant to support Obama. Some things DO have to be spelled out for some. Here's how it breaks down: Obama supporters go for Obama; Clinton supporters go for Clinton.

    [Expletive deleted] on the party! This is the biggest and most powerful job on the planet. Hillary will conceded when SHE is ready. For now she probably just needs to sit with her family and collect herself.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:07 pm |
  33. Eric M.

    I don't understand this whole notion that Hilary Clinton needs more time. What for, really? Didn't she this coming? I respected her a lot, but she is starting to behave like my spoilled little two-year old daughter.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:07 pm |
  34. Louis Kneed

    Why didn't HRC concede? Because of her behavior she just might be the undoing of the Dems campaign. She could go down in history as the first person to inadvertently sabotage the Dems chances in November. Does she wants this to be her legacy? "I will be making no decisions tonight" -that's rich isn't it?

    June 3, 2008 at 11:07 pm |
  35. Charles

    I think what she did tonight was give a baby-boomer speech. It is known that boomers tend to be relatively self-centered. The generations before and after are much different. Obama's speech reflects that difference.......

    June 3, 2008 at 11:07 pm |
  36. Hillary Needs to Accept it is Over

    I love Hillary Clinton, but what she is doing now is self-destructive. Every single election is finished. Every vote has been counted. There is nothing left to wait for, she and she lost the election. It is now, finally over.

    I am worried that what she is doing now is hurting her legacy. Instead being remembered as a ground-breaking woman candidate, I think she's choosing to go down as the worst sore-loser in history.

    It is sad to watch her destroying herself like this, I think she's in denial or something. I wish she'd preserved her dignity and conceded gracefully.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:07 pm |
  37. wt

    Just who is that Tobin. He is a nobody and yet he acted as if he was so important...I am so indignant about Clinton's speech. Remember, he is a nobody in this picture.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:07 pm |
  38. Ed

    McCain looked small
    Clinton looked petty
    Obama looked PRESIDENTIAL!!!!

    June 3, 2008 at 11:07 pm |
  39. Sue

    I think she was GREAT! – I am sure she WILL be a team player to whatever extent she in invited or makes sense – perhaps she did not "ENDORSE" tonight so she would not appear as a HYPOCRYTE ! 1st , the reality of not being in as nominee will set in ... then she can redefine her relationship with Obama & her party!!!

    June 3, 2008 at 11:07 pm |
  40. Charles Loflin

    If Hillary truly believes she's the stronger candidate then she wouldn't want to be Obama's VP. She'd be counting on him losing to McCain so that she could run again in 2012. I hate to be a skeptic but my gut says Hillary's concerned first with what's best for Hillary and unfortunately what's best for the party runs a distant second.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:06 pm |
  41. mike jones

    yes we can

    June 3, 2008 at 11:06 pm |
  42. Sue

    As a white women backing Obama, I was sorely disappointed in HRC's speech tonight. She promised unity, let's see it.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:06 pm |
  43. Joseph

    Congratulations Barak and great race Hillary,

    Watching the three speeches of the main participants in this race for the Whitehouse was very much akin to witnessing two separate speeches venues. Lets do a parallel of three mock candidates in two very diverse echelons of educational environment. The first consisting of little substance and aptitude, possible from a 4th grade level classroom, expounding the tortuously-twisted, immaturely-confrontational and elementary language one would expect from such an establishment. The other two seemingly delivered from an Ivory League establishment incorporating eloquence, far-sighted intelligence, compassion and selflessness and exuberantly inspiring wisdom. I can’t imagine the possibility of 4 more years of this ignorance.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:05 pm |
  44. Saletta Coleman

    I'm a 30 yr old African American woman. Single, no kids, never married. In this conversation about what American families need, I've felt left out. The Obama campaign has given SO MANY OF US young people is HOPE. What I do have NOW .. is TREMENDOUS OPTIMISM .... so proud to be an American again. Congrats to this campaign for running a first class operation thats about the American people.

    Can it be NOVEMBER already? It's a wrap Sen. McCain .. although we appreciate you and your service ... it's a wrap. Welcome to the Obama Administration.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:05 pm |
  45. Spencer

    I am very pissed at you guys for bashing Hillary tonight on cnn...You guys need to cut it out and give the woman some respect...Or there will be no unity in the party...You guys are making it worse...I have never been so pissed at the way you have talked about anyone before until now...

    June 3, 2008 at 11:05 pm |
  46. Tori

    I am disappointed in the Clinton Campaign. I am a 23 year old female who's father has been to Iraq twice. Once to Falliuja (not sure if I spelled the right) and then the other time to the Green Zone in Baghdad. Barack Obama ran a great campaign and also got 18 million votes, including mine. Her speech told me she did not care about my voice and instead she cared about herself. I want change and if Clinton supporters take this to Denver and further I will be so mad. I don't want him to go to Iraq again and don't want to have another 4 years of Bush policy. Please HRC supporters think about the rest of the US and the fact that we can not have another republican in the whitehouse. I want to make sure that my future as a woman and as a daughter of a service member is not ruined.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:05 pm |
  47. Tara, Sarasota

    Hillary your speech was beautiful.

    Jeffrey Toobin and Carl Bernstein need to be fired for all their partisian comments AGAINST hillary clinton.

    I say take it to the Convention....or run as an independent.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  48. Dewitt Wood Jr.

    Wow Laura your a WHITE woman not a BLACK MAN. How can you look your self in the mirror and say that. You do not know what it is to be BLACK and you will never know. Kathy she showed tonite that she is not graciousand she is disrespectful. If Obama had done that her and Bill would have been screaming BLOODY MUDER. Wow we are really divided and that is what her and Bill wanted, and you idiots can't even see it.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  49. Daria Cohen

    Please reign in Gloria, Jeffrey and David. Give Hillary a day to let this sink in. It is Obama's night and the party's night, but there are a lot of people who support Hillary and know she will be gracious tomorrow. She did not lessen herself. She has been treated unfairly all along by much of the press and once more the spin is very harsh. Perhaps we could commend the two speeches and be a bit more magnanimous ourselves.
    Daria Cohen
    New Jersey, Hillary supporter who will support Obama proudly.

    June 3, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  50. doug

    let the woman find her feet and she wil do the right thing . This is a great deal to handle give her a second!!!

    June 3, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
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