We’re all losers… Okay, so that’s being a little harsh, but at one thing or another, we do lose. So much so that losing might even be engrained in the American lifestyle. Nobody likes to talk about it as winning is the ultimate goal, but losing takes a place in our spirit also.

Naturally you’ve heard all the quotes. “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” (Vince Lombardi). “A winning effort begins with preparation,” (Joe Gibbs). Winning takes precedence over all. There is no gray area. No almost,” (Kobe Bryant).

And naturally we have Reese Bobby in the movie Talladega Nights who says, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Okay so maybe that’s not entirely true. But it appears today we’ve reached the mediocrity of winning. Everyone gets a trophy. If so, then how do they teach winning and losing?

Look, we play a game every weekend of the year where we want to win. Winning is important. I doubt many stage their car up thinking they’re going to lose. Unfortunately though, it happens. We all try, some succeed and some fail. But the truth is that losing is a part of life.

Think about this: A professional baseball player making millions of dollars a year playing a “game,” one who gets a hit only three times out of ten is considered a winner. A pro basketball player is considered a winner if he scores points roughly four or five times out of ten attempts at the basket. A championship football quarterback might only find a receiver five or six times out of ten throws. Of course, those examples are part of a team where one which only wins a small percentage of their games usually will find themselves at the bottom of the standings. Drag racing might not be considered a team sport, per se, but the fact of the matter is that even the best driver with the best team behind him will not win all the time. Which makes losing just part of the cycle.

I myself am a poor loser, I’ll admit it. Shamefully there have been more than a couple of flying projectiles around our pit area after a loss. I’m certainly not proud of that, but it happens. Vince Lombardi said, “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”

The late Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna said, “You will never know the feeling of a driver winning a race. The helmet hides the feeling that cannot be understood.” The same might go for losing.

Oftentimes I can tell you that when I lose, it’s as if the whole world has its eyes on me, more so than when I win. That feeling of not seeing the win light on in my lane makes me want to sink so low in the seat that I become invisible, not even wanting to return to my pit area, let alone not even pick-up the time slip except to see just why the loss occurred.

However, the “feeling of winning” is that feeling of accomplishment. The feeling of succeeding. The euphoric rise in our self-esteem. Losing though is the exact opposite. It’s the feeling of defeat. The feeling of failure. That sinking feeling in your gut. Yeah, it happens but you don’t have to like it.

When it happens, we tend to go through the five stages of grief as Top Sportsman racer Don O’Neal says, “Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are all often felt in the time before making the turn off the track.”

Obviously, we’re our own worst critic and of course the type of acceptance of a loss will be different for each circumstance. I lost in the semifinals of a race against a faster car. I knew he was faster and I did the best I could, but at about half-track when he was a car ahead of me I might have secretly been praying (I know that’s a bad thing) for him to break. The acceptance of that loss came a little early. Still, it was a loss nonetheless. There was no denial, nor was there too much anger, bargaining or depression. Acceptance in that instance came before the other stages.

Of course, there was the time; and we’ve all done this; where we gave up the win light by thousandths of a second. In that instance, each of the five stages was much more amplified with anger probably being the most severe. And does it take time to get over something like that? You betcha!

After a brutal loss at a recent golf tournament, Tiger Woods said, "I wanted to play (Sunday). This is going to sting for a couple of days, and I'll get back to it after that." We all do!

How long does it take for you to cycle through the five stages? - John DiBartolomeo