I’ve heard the phrase “refuse to lose” in the media quite a bit recently to describe Olympic champions, NFL players and tennis superstars at the US Open. It seems a perfect way to describe the conviction of champion athletes. We don’t need the mega-dose of talent that they have to learn from their mindset and adapt it to our own goals.
I recently visited a cutting edge engineering and design firm known for its breakthrough product innovations. One of their “refuse to lose” company principles offers guidance to professionals in any field:
Generate many ideas — craft a variety of possible solutions to a problem — and quickly weed out the impractical and infeasible ideas to identify the best ones. And then literally try to break those solutions – don’t get too attached until you’re sure you cannot do better! The emphasis was on creativity, choice, experimentation, and a refusal to let either process concerns or old assumptions be a constraint. For example, when the engineers cannot find a piece of equipment that meets their newest specifications, rather than compromise their standards, they refuse to lose. They either push an equipment vendor to go invent their next generation product for them, or they find a way to build it themselves.
Similarly, I’ve coached executives who successfully reinvented their style of giving performance feedback to fit a new role or new team members rather than force fit a traditional method that was not well-suited to the circumstances. I’ve also helped clients “refuse to lose” in the face of large challenges that they had previously thought they had to resolve on their own. They persevered by leveraging their networks and relationships for new insights and innovative solutions. As with the engineers, when you cast a wide net with your problem-solving, very valuable – but not necessarily intuitive – choices emerge.
If you think about your favorite top athlete, this is what he or she does too: Push to new edges via resourcefulness, experimentation, and practice. Could you incorporate the “refuse to lose” mindset into your own approach to work? Are you fully utilizing the capabilities you (and your team) already have, and at the same time, are you exploring new territory to see what untested capability or solution might emerge? Perhaps there’s a specific powerful question you can frame that will help you persevere.