Everyone hates a sore loser. There really is nothing worse, is there? I think it’s because everyone loses sometimes, it’s a fundamental part of life, so seeing someone go off track because of a loss feels shameful and juvenile. Bearing that in mind, it seems the key to success isn’t in pretending that a big loss doesn’t suck, but in recognizing the suckiness and then rebounding.
My first official writing gig was for a really popular baby/kids travel and gear site. I wrote my first three blog posts, submitted them, and anxiously awaited their appearance on the site… But they never showed. Instead, I got an email from one of the founders saying they’d decided to go a different direction with the site. I was out.
I was devastated. I needed something in my life so badly just then. Two hours later, I got on the phone with my pal Eli and we created our own blog, She Said He Said, and a few weeks after that I got an email from Lisa Hickey inviting us to join the GMP.
It isn’t the greatest story ever, I know, but it’s sort of the way things work out. I wanted to write professionally, and was canned before I could even start. So I started my own blog.
I didn’t have a name for what I’d done in that instance until I met GMP’s Shawn Maxam. He calls it emotional resilience and I certainly don’t have it all the time. Or maybe even most of the time. But I think it’s probably central to a happy life.
I wouldn’t have named Bob Dole as the poster child for emotional resilience, but in his op-ed for the Washington Post this weekend, he explains how enduring one of the most public losses—the race for President—taught him that losing really isn’t that bad:
Sure, losing an election hurts, but I’ve experienced worse. And at an age when every day is precious, brooding over what might have been is self-defeating. In conceding the 1996 election, I remarked that “tomorrow will be the first time in my life I don’t have anything to do.” I was wrong. Seventy-two hours after conceding the election, I was swapping wisecracks with David Letterman on his late-night show.
The discovery by others that I had a sense of humor led to an improbable career pitching Visa, Dunkin’ Donuts and Viagra. (Any second thoughts I may have entertained about the latter were put to rest by a couple of wives who approached me in airports to say, simply, “Thank you, Senator.”) I wrote a couple of books on political humor, got a gig with Jon Stewart offering unconventional commentary on the Bush-Gore election and started the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas to promote constructive, bipartisan debate. I currently work at Alston & Bird, a law firm in Washington, which keeps me plenty busy.
He also references being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and how he was assigned by the president he lost to, Bill Clinton, to help create a memorial to those who served in WWII, which gave him an enormous amount of pride and which he couldn’t have done had he won the election.
He also lists a whole bunch of admirable tasks he’s completed of which he’s proud, and which he probably wouldn’t have done as president. It’s very, very cool and incredibly inspiring.
Even now, nearly each day’s mail brings letters from a veteran with unmet needs. I answer every one, to the dismay of staffers trying to decipher my spidery handwriting. Most days I’m on the phone congratulating a vet on his birthday or encouraging returning soldiers whose wounds are emotional as well as physical. I thank them for their service and, where appropriate, share my experiences as evidence that the only limits to one’s usefulness are self-imposed.
Good man, Bob. Thanks for that.
Also read: The Aggressive Happiness Method by Shawn Maxam
AP Photo/Stephan Savoia