The saying goes, “You can’t win if you don’t play.” That’s true for the most part. But of course the corollary to that expression is, “If you play you will lose — at least sometimes.” That’s the reality of the situation. Get used to it.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to dissuade you from engaging in political struggles, or from attempting to right perceived wrongs in your community. Just know going in that you’re going to lose the fight sometimes. It’s best to be prepared for the inevitable. Trust me on this one.
You’re not alone, of course. We all lose from time to time. Talk to any professional athlete and they can tell you a thing or two about losing. Some of us do it with style and grace, while others lose while channeling John McEnroe from back in the bad old days.
Politics is the same, more or less. Like in sports, you lose with an audience, so it’s not something you want to take lightly, or do badly. On the up side, like in sports, there is no rule that says a loss has to be a permanent condition. You can come back. If you persevere, prepare, and drum up the nerve to come back for another go in the future — you just might carry the day in the long run.
The key to losing well is to know your material, know you’re on the right side (even if the issue is subjective and complex) and hold your head high. There is no shame in losing because of factors beyond your control. It’s not even so bad to lose because you made a stupid, boneheaded move. We all do occasionally. If your argument is based on solid facts, verifiable information, and doesn’t get down in the dirt by making personal accusations, you’ve got a shot at a victory even after a significant loss.
You’ll make enemies along the way, or course. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the way people often are. Supporters can turn into detractors with the utterance of a single phrase, or a position taken on a single issue. Often the people on the other side of the argument from you will be basing their position on misinformation, rumor, well-intentioned information that has little, if anything, to do with the issue at hand, or just the fact that their friend opposes you so they decide to oppose you too.
Not all politics is heartfelt, even if the anger the opposition raises is. Not all opposition is well reasoned or factually based, either. That doesn’t mean the less rational argument won’t win out, however. Politics is fickle. You have to know why you believe what you believe. Be prepared to explain yourself. Be prepared to lose now and then.
The important thing to know about losing is you are being measured in the process. Those in the audience, or reading the news, or chatting over coffee at the local gathering spot, will take note of how you accept defeat. Whether they are behind you or against you, they are paying attention and keeping score. If you conduct yourself with dignity, you will enhance the level of respect some of your supporters had for you. It’s possible that you will turn a few detractors to your side, too. At the very least you may soften their opposition.
Nothing diffuses a caustic battlefield brawl like the realization that one of the participants has the ability to leave the emotion of the argument behind and walk out side-by-side after a rousing verbal joust with no animosity at all. The people who can do that are rare, but they do exist. They can battle it out in the public meeting room, and still find it perfectly reasonable to go grab a bite to eat or a frosty cold beverage with their opposition — and enjoy the occasion freely.
Those people tend to win a great deal of respect throughout the course of their careers, even if they have some monumental losses along the way. If at all possible, learn to be one of those people. And keep in mind that you will likely win one day. Perhaps that will come one day in the not-too-distant future. Whenever that day arrives, don’t gloat.
There are two sides to any loss. Be gracious and professional, no matter which side you find yourself on. The benefits of being civil will pay off in the long run, because nobody likes a braggart or a bully. As long as you conduct yourself honorably and ethically, you’ll never be confused as being either.
Argue your points and argue them well. But stick to the issue, stay out of the weeds, and take your lumps with style when the time comes. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did. And so will your supporters.
Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. He is also a founding partner and regular contributor to FlightMonkeys.com. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.
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