Losing Without Loss

About this time a week ago I was pulling into Evansville, Indiana for their New Venture Creation Competition. I happily undertook the trek, which, by the end, totaled almost 1200 miles and 19 hours of driving in two days. I did so because this competition held the promise of a new source of funding for Book Hatchery — a $10,000 prize for first place.

I was already quite happy to be among the nine finalists given that the competition was open to the entire US and Canada. I really felt like I had a good shot at winning. I wasn’t worried. In fact, I wasn’t worried at all. Even as my presentation approached my nerves were much quieter than I expected. Somewhere in the past 14 months I had developed a joy for presenting, and I’m especially thrilled if I’m presenting on Book Hatchery. I went first, just like I wanted. I gave a good presentation, although some points were hurried. I had good questions from the judges, and I responded appropriately. As I sat down I felt like I did everything to the best of my ability, and everything else was now in the hands of the judges.

As you can tell from the title of this post, I didn’t win. I didn’t even place in the top three. We were judged on our presentation, business plan, and overall feasibility of our business concept. Interestingly, I was given positive feedback on everything, so I’m not sure what exactly I could have done better. However, my competition was very impressive. I myself would have voted for Luminex, the winning company from Vancouver, and their sun-sensing, self-adjusting, day-lighting blinds. If they work then that will be some very nifty technology.

As I drove home I felt strangely unaffected. Truth be told, I felt fine. Maybe even better than fine. I was out on the open road with only my thoughts and Pandora (on unlimited 3G bandwidth) for company. I had nothing scheduled, so I was free to travel at my leisure. I was happy to have some large blocks of time to just chill out and think, as that is something that has been rare in the last few months of running my startup. Eventually I thought to myself: I just lost a competition. I lost something that would have been a huge help to my company. Shouldn’t I at least feel a little down and defeated?

I decided the answer was no. Why? We hadn’t actually lost anything. Nothing has changed. Winning was a want, not a need. We did not lose ground; we simply didn’t gain any. We weren’t on the edge of shutting down or anything. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Things have never been better, and we are gaining traction and moving full steam ahead. Book Hatchery has had a good number of victories, and this competition doesn’t change that.

With this little insight I would offer some advice to the students here at UNI who are stressing about the Pappajohn New Venture Business Plan Competition. Don’t worry about winning or losing, because the outcome of the competition does not dictate your course of action. If you are an entrepreneur then you will find a way to move forward even if you lose. In fact, losing may reveal and solidify your dedication and focus in a way that winning never could.

One Comment

  • Jason D. Myers wrote:

    Well said Nick. I’ve been pondering the subject of your post for quite some time now, and what to make of my own “victories and defeats” in my past. When I came across a quote by Alexander Graham Bell that has reverberated within me.

    He said, “When one door closes, another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”

    I love this thinking. In essence this quote captures the power of positive thinking, and what the core of an entrepreneur ought to be.

    Furthermore, I love what Earl Nightingale said. “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.”

    I’ve watched and admired that you are making a strong impression in the world of Entrepreneurs. I’m happy to know we have a strong connection through JPEC and a positive business relationship.

    I recognize you winning that competition was not a “need” or defeat for Book Hatchery because things have “never been better and [you] are gaining traction and moving full steam ahead”. Way to go!

    But, as I’ve been thinking about this topic some more while writing you this comment. I also love what Theodore Roosevelt said that I feel ties in with your blogpost “Loosing Without Loss”.

    Quoting a portion of it, he said, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat…who strives valiantly…spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

    Carry on my friend. Carry on.
    Go Book Hatchery!
    Jason D. Myers

Leave a Reply

Your email is never shared.Required fields are marked *