Have you heard of Heather Dorniden? You should.

Mid-way through a crucial track championship, athlete Heather Dorniden trips and falls – and then gets up to do something remarkable. Take a look (around the 1:00 mark, sorry for the video quality):

In a race where a split second difference decides the winner, many would think it futile to even continue. But giving up is not what true champions do. It’s not what your business should do. And it’s a lesson I came to understand personally not too long ago.

The tennis match was 1-4 Set Score, and 0-30 Game Score. I was serving – and losing terribly. This scenario was not unfamiliar to me, and typically I would react by pretty much giving up, playing ever more carelessly and with less energy as each additional point was lost, and until the match was finally, mercifully over.

But something was different that day.

As I got ready to serve the third point, I thought of an old adage – “play like a champion.” It wasn’t particularly inspirational, nor did it motivate me to attempt to win, as even a champion would find these odds daunting. But then something struck me:

I may not be able to play (and win) like a champion, but I can certainly LOSE like one!

Rethinking losing
How would a true champion, like Federer, lose a tennis match? By playing every point with the same skill and enthusiasm one would have had at the start of the game.

So I tried it. And this simple reset changed everything. I started hitting dramatically better and, most importantly, enjoyed the rest of the game. Did I win? NO. I still lost 5-7. But my opponent was visibly stunned at my recovery – and at how close I came to turning the tables on him.

I was more proud of the way I LOST that day than I’ve been on the days that I’ve won. And isn’t that what counts?

6645662Losing is okay, quitting isn’t
In the face of setbacks (and when AREN’T there setbacks in life?) the way we rally and continue on is as important as those victory moments. In fact, they pave the way for those victory moments.

At Heartwood, we’ve always had a unique perspective on winning and losing. Our victory moments happen when others win too. We believe in an infinite game – where there’s no one winner, but constant and continuous winners, some even competitors. And we cheer along those successes, along with our own, because it keeps pushing us to move forward and continue to advance the field. To constantly push limits and always keep moving forward to finish the race, often finding ourselves arriving at the finish line first!

(You can learn more about it – and our other founding principles here.)

I am NOT afraid of failure, but of mediocrity
Drew Houston, Founder/CEO of Dropbox

Whether it’s sports, our careers, the next big proposal, contract or interview – we will always win some, lose some. When the odds are against us, failure seeming imminent, what still matters is:

Are we going to finish strong?

YES. That must always be the answer – because there’s no way to know where you’ll finish until you do. If you quit before you get there, you give up the opportunity to discover you might have won anyway, just like Heather Dorniden.

When you take the “infinite game” view, it’s easy to see that perseverance and finishing strong ARE wins – and they can define a company’s culture.

What do you need to finish strong right now and inspire your team?