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Losing is for Winners by Fern Weis, Parent + Family Recovery Coach

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

We've heard all the stories:

  • Thomas Edison designed the light bulb 1000 times until it finally worked. He learned 999 ways NOT to make a light bulb.

  • Michael Jordan missed more than 9,000 shots, lost 300+ games, and missed 26 game-winning shots. He attributes all of those losses to his success. He is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

  • And Johnny Cash, who knew all about mistakes and heartache, said, “You build on failure. You use it as a steppingstone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”

What about the rest of us, who are not so famous and visible? Let’s bring it down to our kids’ level. Take dating, for example. Growing up in the days when it was up to a boy to ask a girl out, I used to wonder what it was like. How could guys stand it when a girl said no? I would have felt totally rejected and reluctant to ask again. (So to my persistent husband I say, "Thank you for asking until I said yes!") Even now, no matter who’s asking whom, the answer is often no. Those who ask, again and again, are the courageous ones who don’t let a negative outcome stop them. And eventually someone says yes!

You have to become friends with these words: no, mistake, failure, disappointment. I can guarantee that you will hear them, and experience them. The question is, will you become a stronger person for it?

Yes and no are two sides of the same coin and cannot exist without each other. You know what to do with 'yes' - you celebrate and relax. What you do with 'no' is infinitely more important. Will you become a victim or a fighter? Will you let it overwhelm you or will you plow ahead? 'No' is where courage and confidence begin to grow, and where creativity and excitement find their voice.

Losing is for winners. Losing creates winners. It’s okay to lose, fail and make mistakes… as long as you’re just visiting, and your thoughts don’t take up permanent residence there. Cry, scream, moan and move on.

Some of the buzzwords for this are resilience, building character, and emotional intelligence. Whatever you call it, just do it! Show your kids how it's done. Share your experiences - the good, the bad and the ugly. You won't lose face or credibility. If anything, they will admire you and be inspired by you (even if they never utter those words).

Teens need to know that while it may not be easy, it is doable. Help them understand that it is the experience, not the outcome, which counts. It’s a very lofty concept; however, they have opportunities every day to learn it and feel the truth of it.

You can be part of that learning by:

  • stepping aside when they face a dilemma or make a mistake.

  • letting/teaching them how to problem-solve their way out.

  • not doing for them what they can do for themselves.

  • resisting your impulse to fix.

  • walking with them through difficulties, instead of smoothing the way.

Success and failure, yes and no – two sides of the same coin. Which side will you live on?

Fern Weis is a certified life coach who learned that caring and good intentions are not enough in parenting. In fact, they are often the problem! Fern supports parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, including addiction recovery. She helps parents release guilt, end enabling and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life's challenges. Her articles are featured in Thrive Global, Medium, Motherly, The Teen Mentor, and Bergen County Moms.

Learn more about coaching and classes at And then download your free guide, "Five Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talk." For information on Family Recovery programs, visit

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