When it came to the Emmy, Bob Newhart knew how to lose. And that’s what he did for 51 years. Until last year when he won.
When asked backstage how he had never received an Emmy, Newhart said, “The best answer to that really is whenever I was nominated, there were better people in the category than me. That’s the truth. The best person wins. That’s the way it is.”
In Hollywood, maybe. In life, not so much. If you’re having trouble winning, it may not be because you’re not the best person. It may be because losing is your destiny.
Putting up a fight
Jacob wrestled with God until daybreak. He wouldn’t stop. He wouldn’t relent. He wouldn’t let go. He also wouldn’t win.
As the sun crested the horizon, the angel of God ended the battle. With a simple touch, Jacob’s hip dislocated and remained so for the rest of his life. Jacob was destined to lose. And no matter how hard he fought (and fight he must), he was never going to win.
How’s the hip? A little achy?
Culturally, losing is associated with lack of focus. Or skill. A refusal to actively pursue a goal. Or laziness. Losers see themselves as losers, winners see themselves as winners. Isn’t that how it goes?
Winners are the exact opposite of losers. They visualize winning. And set goals. They try harder than everyone else and never, never, never quit.
But here’s the question no one wants to talk about: What if you give your dream everything you’ve got and you still fail? What then?
Losing is for winners
Jacob didn’t want to lose. But he did. Initially. Yet somehow he still ended up with a fortune, a forgiving brother, and a name permanently associated with God. He would father a nation and, eventually, be the bloodline for the savior of the world.
That Jacob. The loser. The guy with a limp.
But for Jacob to fulfill his destiny, he first had to lose. It was imperative. There were lessons in the loss that he couldn’t do without. He wouldn’t lean on God without a loss. He wouldn’t trust God to protect him unless he couldn’t physically fight for himself. He wouldn’t understand humility without first understanding pain.
Jacob would be a winner. But only after losing.
Learn your lesson
We’re not hardwired to enjoy losing. We yearn for the win. We dream of it. Even when we don’t deserve it, we want grace over fairness. Losing, however, may be necessary for the big win. Here’s why:
1. Me, meet self.
You never know yourself quite like you’ll know yourself when you lose. When the win doesn’t come, you suddenly see faults and weaknesses that were invisible before. Now that you see them, you can correct them. And, when you do, you just helped you be better.
2. Perseverance counts for more than you think.
In the KJV, it’s called “patience.” In NLT, it’s “endurance.” In NIV, it’s “perseverance.” James 1:4 tells us to let patience/endurance/perseverance finish what it started. When we do, we’ll be “perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
3. Sweeten the pot.
When you lose, the wins are that much sweeter. Newhart stopped submitting himself for an Emmy to “spare myself the agony of defeat.” When he finally won at the age of 84, the entire room stood to its feet. That win was far bigger and greater than any that could have come sooner.
4. Losing is work.
Jacob would not let go of the angel until he finally…lost. But in doing so, he prevailed. Perhaps it was Jacob who first said, “Winning isn’t everything?”