Get On With It

Writing and drawings about work, family and the stuff in-between

Losing vs gaining


When you are relying on others to get something done, and it isn’t getting done, or it isn’t what you wanted, it’s easy to feel like you are losing something. Nobody wants to be a loser. How can you turn your loss into a gain?

It happens all the time. You’ve lost an opportunity because someone was late, you’ve lost quality because someone didn’t make it right, a detail was missed, a corner was cut. You’ve lost time and money.

This feeling of loss is particularly acute when you are paying someone else to do something for you. You are paying them, so they must get it right, right?

Sure, you are probably totally justified in feeling however you are feeling. That other person might have fucked up, and the company didn’t do what they said they would. You have every right to let them know how hurt and annoyed and inconvenienced you are.

How successful are you going to be when you operate from a place of feeling hurt and annoyed and inconvenienced? If you are like me, I’m guessing not very. Here are some ways you might flip that around.

Expect the unexpected

The first and most obvious is to understand that loss is to be expected. Nothing goes according to plan. Make setbacks part of your plan (and build them in retroactively if needed). Recognize that you are on the hook as much as the other person for letting your work slip and that it was bound to happen. It’s not “I am a failure for letting this happen!”, it’s “I predicted this (or should have) and now I need to figure out what’s next.”

Relative to what came before, the next step can and will be a positive one.

Maintain your agency

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

If you feel like you’ve lost or are losing, then you’re letting the situation control you. See if this sounds familiar: you feel some loss and then you feel depressed or angry or a combination of both. Then, you fight to minimize the loss (you won’t lose anymore dammit!) or you withdraw because you feel there is nothing that can be done (you’ve lost, what’s the point?). Let that welling up of frustration, anger, or depression serve as a warning sign that you’re giving away your control. Only you can decide what you feel.

Feel empowered instead.

Change your story

When you tell someone how mad you are at whatever they haven’t done (aka what you have lost), you’ve made yourself “the loser”. Why would you want to do that? This isn’t about letting shitty work slide or letting people off the hook for their commitments, you can and should still express your concerns, but do so on your terms. By staying objective and not letting your emotions dictate your response, you have the opportunity to make things better. You are really only losing if you say so.


Of course, none of this is easy. We’re all flawed and we all fall into the trap of playing the victim and blaming others for our losses. Be sure to be gentle with yourself and give others a break as well.

Expect to lose sometimes. Gain from your experience. Make your losses part of how you win.


Note: this is a thinly veiled account of how I’ve struggled and am trying to turn around our house renovation experience, but it isn’t the first time nor will it be the last time I struggle with losing. I still need more practice. 😉

One response to “Losing vs gaining”

  1. Great advice! Thanks for posting it.

    Reminds me of this reframing tip I learned earlier this month.

    I have something like this in my mind as I too will be dealing with some builders and contractors in the coming months!

    All the best for your renovation project.

Comments welcome!

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