How To Strive For Success Without Being A Sore Loser

Did you grow up with a real go hard or go home attitude? Whether it was Saturday sports or a friendly game of bowling, were you always the one to unleash an uncomfortably competitive spirit? And subsequently come down on your unassuming teammates and/or loved ones when things weren’t going your way?

We get it. Winning feels great. And losing? Hoooo, boy. It’s just not an option.

The childish need to always beat your opponents and come out on top has more than likely followed you into adulthood. To that seemingly innocent game of Sunday night UNO, to the nagging feeling that makes you want a more expensive car than your mates, to your workplace and career.

Dan Rookwood explored this concept for GQ, speaking about how his obsessive tendencies has benefited him in the long run. He said, “I strongly suspect that any success I’ve had in life to this point owes less to talent than an ingrained will to not be a loser.”

At work, a healthy competitive spirit has its upsides. It means you have a respectable amount of ambition, you always strive for the best and you’re constantly challenging yourself to try new things. Your boss probably loves you. However, if you won’t settle for anything less than accolades, you’re at the risk of being a sook when you don’t achieve them. And nobody likes a sore loser, especially a grown-up one.

It’s a good thing to challenge yourself, it’s when it impacts others that’s the problem. And trying to succeed at the game of life means that people are always going to be affected.

Always look at the bigger picture

When you want to win at life, it’s hard to take stock of how things are going and question your purpose. You have the urge to save this many dollars, get this many promotions, grow your interest by THIS much in order to feel happy.

The thing about aggressively stepping up is that you’re probably going way too fast for other people. And the step up looks just the same as the step below, just with a slightly nicer outlook and less people to hang out with. If the view’s great, but the company isn’t, is it really that satisfying? 

There are lots of things that signify success that aren’t so tangible. A strong bond with your family, being a good friend, always offering help to people, keeping up a hobby. None of these things can be printed on a medal, but they’re still just as important.

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Be happy for others

The best way to smash the default setting of sore loser, is to start empathising with other people. Yeah, sure, you really wanted that promotion. And you feel really hard done by because stupid Marcus got it, and Marcus is an absolute tosser who couldn’t come up with a good idea to save himself. Everyone hates Marcus. Marcus stinks.


Chill out. Marcus is not video game monster that you need to demolish in order to get ahead. He’s a living, feeling human being with a family and friends, and he’s probably really good at his job. Or he’s really well-liked and respected. Or, he’s none of those things and nothing is fair. Doesn’t matter. The result is not going to change just because you hate Marcus with all of your might.

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He’s an okay dude. And if you buy him a beer and say congratulations, only good things can come from it. Besides, it’s not a competition if no one’s out to get you. Trust that people are on your side, and your time will come eventually.

Accept that some things are out of your control

Competitiveness comes out of a need to control an outcome. But in life, outcomes can’t be controlled. We’re all the mercy of a plethora of decisions that happen all around us, and most of them have been made well before we’re even on the scene.

If you come to terms with the fact that sometimes life is unfair, you’ll be way more okay when the result isn’t what you expected. If anything, you’ll be much more happy when it does go your way.

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Most importantly, keep the fire. As we mentioned earlier, being a competitive person means that you’re ambitious and always striving to achieve good things for yourself. That shouldn’t change. It’s the being a sore loser part that you need to let go of.

As Rookwood summarises, “At one extreme, the will to win can be so destructively obsessive it will turn you into a real dick… At the other end of the spectrum, a complete absence of competitive spirit usually results in aimless drifting and unfulfilled potential.”

Try to find that sweet spot. And don’t throw things at people if you’re copped with a Draw Four. Just pick up the cards and get on with it.

(Lead image: Friends/NBC)