How I Lost Two Elections in a Week (and What to Learn From Losing)

This article is for all of those who want to find out how to win by losing.

If you are asking yourself “How is it even possible to have two elections in a week!?” just remember that this is life and that we never know what to expect. Last week was stress-test week of my life, and this article is for those of you who want to learn from my mistakes, just like I did.

Seventeen months ago I joined AIESEC, the world’s largest youth-led organization with clear vision: peace and the fulfilment of humankind’s potential. I saw this as a great chance to develop myself and learn. And it was all for selfish reasons, until I realized the importance of the work we do at AIESEC.

I thought to myself that I really must give my best here, and that is something I did. I worked in the front office team, meaning that I was in contact with future leaders helping them to find the best opportunities, and get accepted once they do.

After working for ten months as a team member I got an opportunity to lead my team. That was challenging, but I had an experience with good and bad leaders, so I knew what I should (not) do. Later on, when I nearly mastered the art of leading one team (you learn a lot in seven months) an opportunity for a new position appeared. So, I applied for the position of the President of AIESEC Sarajevo. Aware of my possible lack of experience, I tried extra hard to write a good application, and in the end I was amazed by good reactions. But I lost. Twice.

The first time I had one opponent, and she was amazing – but both of us lost. No one had 51% of the votes, because some voters didn’t vote for either one of us. That has never happened before and we had no clue how to act. Seven days later, we had another opponent and he won! He became President of AIESEC Sarajevo, but we learned a lot in the process of losing. Read about some of it below.

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When you try really hard and fail, you look at things differently and you begin to ask yourself why did it happened. Go over the whole process and ask yourself did you really give all you’ve got? Have in mind that although you tried hard, it might not be all you have to offer.

Write down what was wrong and analyse it. Make a to-do list of your weaknesses and work on shortening that list. You talk too fast? Practice. You lack knowledge in some areas? Read. Improve until your to-do list is empty. Then write a new one. Life is about continuous learning.

Prepare, But Don’t Over Do It

When you have something important to deliver you will probably try to prepare. Have in mind that there is a difference between necessary preparation and being a robot. Try not to write everything you want to say because you will forget half of it and more importantly you won’t be yourself. Think about key things you want to say and (once again) make a list. Excessive preparation will drain you, and will kill your presentation. However, don’t assume you know everything. Use all the sources you can find to learn about the position you are applying for and be confident in your knowledge.

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Relax and be yourself – People love it

It doesn’t matter if you are going to a job interview or making a public speech, if your audience isn’t made up of robots (hopefully that is not yet the reality) there is a big chance that they will like you if you are relaxed and completely yourself. I won’t tell you to smile because you might not do that often so you would force it, but I can offer you some advice from my experience on what helped me to overcome stress while having a presentation, or while on an interview. You won’t be able to relax if your clothes are not comfortable, so try to mix fashion with comfort, at least for that day. If you can, have a drink with a friend before and don’t talk about the subject, in order to get your mind off the topic and to stop overthinking. Have something in your hand (maybe a pen)! It will help you reduce stress, and help with hand gestures. Improvise, because nothing ever happens exactly the way we want it to. If you need it, take a second. Stop talking, it will look like you are thinking. Be as positive, and as focused as you can. In the end, always have in mind that the best thing you can offer is your true self.

Feedback is Important

No matter the outcome you can always learn from your experience. The best way to explore new ways to improve is to ask those around you to give you feedback. You can learn a lot about yourself from others’ observations. You can ask them to tell you about your good characteristics and how to improve them further, but also bad ones and suggestions on overcoming them.

EXTRA TIP: If you are giving a presentation ask someone to film you.

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Winning isn’t as Important as Staying Human

Trust me, winning is less important than your dignity. If you are lucky enough to have opponents try to learn from them, to talk to them and see why they are better then you are. Don’t compare yourself to them, we are all different. Use diversity to discuss and come to new conclusions. Congratulate them for their bravery. It’s natural to want the best for yourself, but be reasonable. Are they good enough for that position? If they are, be happy for them!

It isn’t The End of The World

Everything happens for a reason. When you are not sure what future holds for you, take a break, think, write an article (get it?), and don’t give up on your dream. Adapt. In the end, remember that your smile is not dependent on that position.

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