Article featured image showing the word NO being completed with the letter W forming the word NOW

I didn’t win! And I don’t think I’ve ever felt so good in losing like I do now!

Yesterday was the semi-final round of a 4-month-long journey, which started when the company I work for, Boehringer Ingelheim, launched an innovation accelerator campaign called #FastForward, driven by the desire to facilitate the promotion and deployment of the most promising ideas from every single level from the company's network of more than 50,000+ employees and to help these ideas drive the company's overall innovation strategy into the future.

Out of the 509 submitted ideas, mine was among the top 15 semi-finalists, who were given the opportunity to undergo a very thorough idea maturation phase supported by an innovation manager. After ideation workshops, feedback sessions, market scouting, customer interviews and intense days of work invested in preparing a 5-minute idea pitch, I had the honour to present the results of the hard work in front of the company's Digital Portfolio Team, who had the task of evaluating the 15 semi-finalists and choosing the 5 winners that get the chance to pitch their ideas to the company's CEO next month.

After such an exciting and time/effort-consuming journey, it's absolutely normal to want to win, to want to feel good and proud about oneself and one's idea, right? Well, that's how we're programmed to think and feel, after all. And here's the bottom-line of my story that I want to share with you: I didn't win! And I don't think I've ever felt so good in losing like I do now. I feel a huge sense of accomplishment.

Winning and losing: time-bound distinctions (!?)

You know moments like when your team is losing and the referee sounds the whistle? Or when the winner is announced among the nominees? These are literally split-of-a-second moments in time that define who will step on the stage and deliver a speech, who will step on that podium and raise a trophy or simply who will get a chance to move forward versus those who won't - like in my case. "Damn! It's tough!" Let's not underestimate the pain that this split second carries with it. It's dull. It's a silent punch in the stomach. And it's a demon so bad that it may even make us forget the whole journey of wins that led us to that moment. And this is why learning the time-value of winning can do wonders.

You see? Most of us grow up trained to follow the winning path. And it's hard to keep focused on what lies beyond that path. There are so many distractions around telling us how our life should look like, and sometimes we forget that our paths are unique. There is only one ME and one YOU. Why should winning and losing look the same for us both, after all?

Besides, there are many lessons in losing! It is what we do with the result of winning or losing that defines the true champions. It is nothing else than the good old "learning to lose" recipe I'm talking about. And this is what this recipe looks like to me: I choose to see the wins behind losing!

Well, winning feels awesome - no doubt about it! However, there is a lot more than just winning and losing in a competition. And this is where the time-value of winning plays an important role. It is not the YES/NO split second telling apart the winner(s) from the loser(s) that define my success story, it is the aggregated value of NOW moments of success that led me there, and most importantly, the NOW moments that follow that define what winning looks like to me. And trust me, with this in mind and at heart, there's never too little to celebrate - no matter the outcome!

The many wins in my story of losing

Back to my story, when I pitched my semi-finalist idea yesterday, of course I hoped to make it to the finals. I didn't, but you know what? Never has it felt so easy to go through that "NO" split second when I realized I didn't make it. And the reason is: I already felt like a winner!

  • In fact, months ago, I felt like a winner because I was one of the 509 out of 50.000+ employees in the company who had the initiative and courage to submit an idea to this program.
  • I felt like a winner when my idea qualified as "HOT!" because it received support from many colleagues who liked, commented and engaged with the idea online.
  • Following, I felt like a winner when I received a message saying my idea had made to the evaluation phase.
  • Shortly after, I felt like a winner when I got the call saying my idea was shortlisted as one of the semi-finalists and I even got a message from the CEO's office thanking me for taking part in the campaign.
  • A whole month of idea-maturation went by and every single day I felt like a winner because I was given the chance to undergo a very intense idea and personal development phase with the support of a coach and a board of professionals.
  • Throughout the whole journey, I felt like a winner because I'm lucky to work for a company that gives me a voice to lead innovation and exposes me to a multi-cultural and cross-functional team of experts from whom I learned so much and who inspired me.
  • Yesterday when I stood in front of that audience as an idea owner seeking support to bring this idea to life, I felt like a winner because I know I delivered the best of myself, with not a single thought of "I could have done better" whatsoever.
  • Now I sit on the airplane flying back home, and I feel like a winner because I was able to acknowledge that split second "NO" moment with a smile on my face, for I learned to see beyond it. I learned to value the 4 months' worth of NOW winning moments that counterweight the punch of that split second by far.

And you know? It's all a matter of perspective as well. The underlying goals of my presentation yesterday were two-fold: first, I wanted people to believe in the idea and secondly, I wanted help to translate the idea into reality. Did I make it to the competition finals? No, I didn't! But guess what? No questions that goal #1 was achieved! And to a large extent, the noise it created already made goal #2 find its means of realization elsewhere. Power of positivity, anyone? 🙂

I never felt so much in sync with my talents and aspirations like I do now. What a sense of accomplishment! Thank you, @Boehringer Ingelheim and the whole #FastForward Team for instilling in me a sense of fulfilment and achievement. Even if my idea did not fast-forward as I wished, this experience has fast-forwarded me into the next best version of myself! I'm truly thankful!

And hey! Let's not forget! To all the finalists, congratulations! Thank you for the winning spirit all along! And thank you for taking us all as a company one step closer into the future. Now go ahead and get us all fast-forwarded, guys! Cheers! 🙂

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