How to lose elections and influence people
When the Republican congressional leaders realized they could not pass their long-promised revision of the Affordable Care Act, this defeat made them sad. More to the point, there was little evidence that defeat had improved their characters or clarified their thinking.
I can help them with that.
In a long-running streak of good fortune, I have lost many elections. This has positioned me to discover a spirit-lifting pattern: when you lose a vote (even better, when you lose it dramatically), you should prepare yourself to notice and embrace the positive outcomes that often trail defeat.
I now present three of these:
After a failure to gain the majority’s support, you may come to realize that the idea or cause you were supporting deserved to lose. This recognition, in turn, hands you the enviable opportunities of course correction, admitting your error and moving on to a better plan. All parts of this process provide wonderful exercise for your mind and soul. You emerge with an enhanced understanding of your values and principles and the reasons why you hold them.
You may find that your defeat built the foundation for a later vindication and validation of your position. I can best demonstrate the magic of this change in the current of events with a story. Fifteen or 20 years ago, at a meeting with other professors in the humanities, I put forward a proposal to build an alliance with science and engineering departments. When the proposal was put for a decision, my proposal received only one vote in its favor, which I am proud to claim as my own. And now, in 2016-17, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, in alliance with the National Endowment for the Humanities, have created a high-profile commission on “Integrating Higher Education in the Arts, Humanities, Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.” In other words, people of great achievement and national prominence have stepped in and taken up my failed cause! But here is important advice: Any impulse to declare “I told you so” should be quickly squished.
When you lose a vote, you sometimes receive an entirely excellent consolation prize: a funny story that you will enjoy telling for the rest of your life. Consider just one remarkable demonstration of the congenial relation between defeat and comedy. Years ago, in its annual “Best of Boulder” poll, the Boulder Daily Camera included a category of Best CU Personality. In one wondrous election, the CU Mascot Ralphie left me in the electoral dust. Losing an election to a buffalo (more precisely, a bison) is an unusual accomplishment in itself. But now we get to the most striking feature of this vote: In the season when Ralphie beat me, that particular Ralphie had fallen ill and died.
As the only person to have lost an election to a dead buffalo, I hold a unique authority in these matters. Wielding that authority, I will now mimic our president in literary style, sending out my maiden tweet:
Many people think that losing an election is SAD, but if you do it right, it is BIGLY TREMENDOUS. #EmbracingDefeat