Today's Loser Can Win Tomorrow

  |  December 15, 2000   |  Comments

Maybe this year isn't ending as you'd expected. Maybe you're disappointed in your stocks or your career. If so, remember: Defeat, like victory, is temporary. And enormous opportunity exists in failure.

At a time when millions of Americans feel they were robbed, while millions more call those millions sore losers, it's a good time to acknowledge an eternal truth. Defeat, like victory, is temporary.

In the worlds of technology and the markets, the times are always a changing. (Click the link and hum a few bars, will you?)

It's a comforting refrain right now for those in Internet commerce or advertising. Most of us hung on to our stocks too long (admit it), and many of us found them to be worthless at the end of the day. Many have lost jobs, even careers, to the vagaries of an unforgiving market.

But there are second acts, and every victory can lead straight to defeat. We know this from our political history. John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Benjamin Harrison all became president of the United States in what were considered questionable ways. In no case was the prize worth it for them or anyone else.

It happened for the author of the song as well. Bob Dylan was up, then down, then up again, then down again. He was called a failure and a genius, a has-been and a legend. The key is that he didn't let others define him. He kept to his own path and vision. If you have a path and vision, you should do the same.

Second acts are common in the technology business. Garry Betty left Hayes Microcomputer Products Inc. in the early 1990s to become president of Digital Communications Associates Inc. Both companies were based in Atlanta, but both had fallen hard by the time he joined a little California ISP called EarthLink in 1996. Three years later, EarthLink bought MindSpring, and Betty returned home in triumph.

The market leads you up, crashes you down, and can lead you up again -- if you learn something from the fall.

Sometimes the lesson is that you were just too early, that the timing was wrong. Other times the lesson is that change doesn't happen all at once, no matter what the hype or the stock market seems to indicate. Still other times the lesson is that something was just missing -- about you, about your message, about your execution.

The market teaches these lessons all the time. Ask Jeff Bezos, Tim Koogle, or David Wetherell about them. The first one now will be the last one later.

Enormous opportunity exists in failure, yours or anyone else's. If you're certain of where the world is heading in the long run, you can still jump on its evolutionary path and succeed.

So what if the political world seems closed to you. There will be another election in short order. So what if your Internet stock got delisted or your Internet employer went under. You can start over again, a little older and wiser.

Heck, look at me. I've been fired from every job I ever had, told in no uncertain terms by trained professionals that I should get out of journalism and stay out. If I can make it, so can you. Just don't let one loss get you down.


Dana Blankenhorn

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business reporter for more than 20 years. He has written parts of five books and currently contributes to Advertising Age, Business Marketing, NetMarketing, the Chicago Tribune, Boardwatch, CLEC Magazine, and other publications. His own newsletter, A-Clue.Com, is published weekly.

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