“It’s not how you get knocked down, it’s how you get up”
Cameron Schwab – Charcoal on paper – 2016

I don’t lose. I either win or learn

by | Feb 3, 2020

With every endeavour, any heartfelt effort, there comes a new ‘point of departure’.

Nelson Mandela said:

“I don’t lose. I either win or learn”.

Any sincere effort will pick you up somewhere, and leave you somewhere else.

As an artist, it’s the feeling that threatens to overwhelm when shaping-up to a canvas and all its expectations. The only defence from its intimidation is the brittle piece of charcoal in my hand and my monkey-mind imagination, with ambition and capability mostly miss-aligned.

I wonder about the compatibility of comfort and creativity, particularly when our inboxes fill with ways to short-cut, or ‘hack’ our way to superior outcomes with less effort.

While I’m all for efficiency when it comes to growth and learning, I cannot think of anything genuinely worthwhile that doesn’t push to a place of discomfort. But then, we also need some base level comfort as our platform for this endeavour, and from experience, this was the growth and belief that emanated from the last effort, which established a new “point of departure”.

No effort, no discomfort, and there is no growth, and our’ point of departure’ never changes. We stagnate.

Does effort guarantee success?

Of course not…”I don’t lose. I either win or learn”, said Mandella.

I like to mix novels into my reading routine. I am often surprised by the learning opportunity fiction provides, often complex and layered, and most likely outside of the intent of the writer.

I recently read the Trent Dalton’s debut novel ‘Boy Swallows Universe’, and loved it. Great ‘coming of age’ yarn, complex and vivid characters, and Australian suburban nostalgia, kind of Paul Kelly meets the Godfather.

One of the key relationships is the child Eli’s friendship with a family friend named Arthur “Slim” Halliday, a convicted murderer and prison escapee known as The Houdini of Boggo Road. As it turns out, “Slim” is an actual person, and the writer did have a childhood relationship (he was his babysitter!) with the Houdini of Boggo Road, so named because he escaped Boggo Road Prison in Queensland on two occasions.

In the book, Slim is explaining to Eli what is required to break out of jail, his “four factors to a clean escape”. They are:

  1. Timing
  2. Planning
  3. Luck
  4. Belief

These could well be the four factors required for any successful endeavour, but the process I have explained plays heavily into the final ingredient:


In this regard, I use a model I call ‘Something to BE’ as it relates to building capability.

The first of the ‘be’s’ is because…our current state. No judgement, “I/we are here because…”.

With the focus on goals and ambition, the next be for most people is beyond.

I am convinced we cannot go from because to beyond, without the most important be, belief.

The goal is to find belief, and this means going through a process known as “productive struggle”, sometimes described as the learners sweet-spot, or hard-fun, the place we discover how to apply grit, grind and think our way through, to build on our learning in the classic sigmoid curve, and find our “new point of departure”.

Once established, our new belief could well mean our beyond needs redefining. The bar can be reset, perhaps even higher than we imagined, buoyed by our recent growth.

As someone who has spent a lifetime attempting to predict the ‘beyond’ for young footballers, and having made many errors, I know the difference ‘belief’ makes. Lack of belief has reduced the most gifted and talented while amplifying the gritty and thoughtful battler, who manages to find a way.

So belief needs a plan, the second of Slim’s Four elements. I sense that the other two components, timing and luck, are far more likely to follow, as the cliche goes:

“The harder I work, the luckier I get”.

I always enjoy the opportunity to talk all things culture and high-performance, and the development of leaders to achieve it.

Here are three ways to start the ball rolling:

  • I teach and coach an integrated leadership performance system utilising sophisticated learning models and systems garnered from elite team sport, ideal for leaders who are committed learners, who understand the responsibility of leadership. To learn more, please arrange your FOC 30-minute leadership telephone consult to discuss your personal, team or organisational challenges or aspirations, please use this link.
  • Participate in our next one-day Leadership Masterclass which I personally facilitate. It is a sophisticated, intimate and practical leadership intensive for aspirational leaders, both current and emerging. To learn more, and to register, please use this link.
  • Sign up for the “More to the Game” weekly email, and receive a copy of my “What business can learn from football” White Paper. The emails are short leadership reflections, no more than a couple of minutes to read and we will always treat our communication with respect. Please use this link.

You can also contact me at cameron@designCEO.com.au and let me know how you think we can work together.

Cameron Schwab
CEO & Founder


Recent Posts


We are based at Work Club
Level 2, 287 Collins Street,
Melbourne, Vic. 3000.

Email: cameron@lambeau.com.au


+61(0)411 860 931