3 Ways To Learn From Defeat

“If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost.”

– Zig Ziglar

Experience as a Teacher

No textbook or teacher can teach us like experience. I have learned more from my mistakes than I ever did by doing it a thousand times the right way. Experience really is the best teacher. You can warn someone you are trying to help by telling them about your own experience, but most (like me at times) will ignore your warnings and end up learning for themselves; the hard way! And that’s okay. Try seeing defeat from the vantage point of learning from it. This might help us avoid repeating the same mistake twice.

Learning how not to do It

I hear it took Thomas Edison over 1,000 times before the lightbulb ever worked and when asked about his many failures, Mr. Edison saw it as 1,000 ways not to do it. He took these defeats and piled them upon his daily experiences and used those many defeats to bring about one of the greatest inventions of his time. Mr. Edison was told by his teachers “you’re too stupid to learn anything” but they forgot about the teacher of experience. Thomas Edison’s perseverance paid off as he made ever defeat one step closer to success.

Trusting God’s Sovereignty

What we might see as defeat, God might see as gain. Paul wrote “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) so in turning his life over to God he wrote to the church at Rome; “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered” (Rom 8:36). He never pondered judgment or exacting revenge on those who beat him, imprisoned him, and sought his life. He trusted God’s sovereignty and so wrote, “Repay no one evil for evil” (Rom 12:17) and “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom 12:19).


Hall of Fame college basketball coach John Wooden once said that winners make the most errors. Maybe that’s because they try so many attempts. The truest defeat is not even trying because then, you’ve lost before you ever tried.