Harvard, Rowing, and “Play to Win, Learn to Lose”

I had a Skype video with an entrepreneur last week. His company isn’t in a space we know well, but he came referred by a highly-regarded friend. So, I wanted to connect and try to help. I’m glad I did.

Our conversation delved into sports. He used to row a lot. Think of large crews on the Charles River. Races between Oxford and Cambridge. Yes, that kind of rowing. Obliterating your body when you go out and train or race. One of my college roommates rowed, and I heard first-hand about how grueling of a sport it is.

This person said he learned just as much in a boat as he did in the Ivy League classrooms. His most valuable lesson? Perseverance.

I agree with him on that. Grit is everything. It’s so important for entrepreneurs to be persistent. As a father, it’s one thing I try to repeat constantly to my children: “play to win, learn to lose.”

We all want to win the race or get a high grade on the test. But, the fact is, over time, that’s hard to do. The better you become, the more you’re bumped up into tougher competition. Over time, you become “average” when you’re competing with Olympic athletes or super-geniuses in college.

So, at some point, we need to learn to lose graciously and gracefully. Be a good sport. Not get too down.

And, get up and try again.

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2 thoughts on “Harvard, Rowing, and “Play to Win, Learn to Lose”

  1. “Play to win, learn to lose.” that’s a great quote. I also feel the fact that I’m becoming more and more “average” when meeting brilliant and driven people all the time. It reminds me of a saying in China, “Beyond the mountain is another mountain, beyond the sky is another sky.”

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