Losing a pitch, gaining perspective.
August 22, 2008
Last week I wrote about participating in a thrilling marathon of a pitch against my old employer, Leo Burnett. I had rhapsodized about the event, the thrill of it, and my very real gratitude for being able to do this sort of thing for a living. I likened the process to an Olympics of sorts, with late night rehearsals, and passing the baton from teammate to teammate. I had wanted to win and felt we had done enough to win.
The Gods of Advertising had other ideas. We did not prevail. Without going into it, we were told it was the closest of calls and that it took a weekend of rigorous debate for the client to agree on an agency –not mine. With all respect, the “eulogy” doesn’t really make any difference. In agency pitches, second place is merely first loser. There are no silver medals.
But there might be a silver lining. I’m not devastated from losing. I feel I’d done the best job I could possibly and that my team did so as well. In hindsight there are always things, and I’m sure we’ll do a postmortem, but I’m “good” with this loss. My Bono-like sermon on gratitude and effort was not vainglorious window dressing (well, maybe a little). I really am better off for having participated. And, as in most pitches, I do feel blessed for having had the opportunity. I live for these opportunities.
The other “good” part of losing is the proverbial growth opportunity it presents. That’s not self-help crapola. Pain is the ultimate teacher. We learn humility and respect when we are beaten fairly and squarely. Which we were.
Once upon a time (at Leo Burnett, as a matter of fact), our unit, called LBWorks, had a monster run on new business. I think we won four clients in a row, each one bigger than the last. Our heads swelled, none bigger than mine. When talk came of folding LBWorks back into Burnett, I righteously shat upon the suggestion. Much drama ensued. Months later I resigned in protest, leaving a company I had been at, and adored, for roughly 17 years. I had become arrogant from winning. No regrets, but looking back I paid a large price for insisting I was “right.” Had we lost those 4 pitches, being asked to return to Momma would have seemed like charity. Perspective and humility are gifts of losing. I see that now