Many years ago I wrote an article titled “The Underdog Wins Again.” In a nutshell it was a column about how some are not expected to win or get ahead, but somehow they do. I gave a couple of examples from the sporting world, which has had so many underdogs. I referenced a movie and book titled Seabiscuit: An American Legend authored by Laura Hillenbrand. She also has another book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. If you like nonfiction books brought to life, go get them or watch the excellent movie versions.
I have read Seabiscuit several times and have seen the movie a dozen times. The story relates to many walks of life. Certainly one is loss prevention, but I will get to that later. There are four main characters in the story. The first is the horse Seabiscuit, a special thoroughbred with champion blood lines who spent too much time eating and sleeping to take racing seriously. When the early owners of the horse grew tired of the young colt, they gave up on him and simply allowed him to lose.
A second protagonist is the new owner, a wealthy businessman whose personal tragedies in his life exceeded his richness. He brings in a new trainer, a renegade horseman whose time had passed as a cowboy. The fourth important character is the jockey, a loser time and again, just trying to hang on in life.
All four together make for a terrific story of the downtrodden, perennial loser finding the right combination to become a champion. It all came together in 1938 when Seabiscuit ran a two-horse race against the champion triple-crown horse, War Admiral. The underdog won the race and with it fame and fortune forever. Sometimes it just takes the right combination, right circumstances, right company, or right job for the presumed underdog to rise up and become a champion.
Throughout my many years in loss prevention, I have witnessed many underdog loss prevention associates and teams—teams who became accustomed to losing with the shrinkage results and with the C-level bosses and individuals who feared they would never achieve their goals or career ambitions.
Loss prevention teams and individuals who continually lose in this business are soon replaced. Sometimes the measurement for losing is an unfounded opinion by a C-level executive or an expense cutback or just a change for change’s sake. Regardless, at some point many start anew looking for the right circumstances or new team to become a champion.
You would be amazed how many underdog LP professionals we have in the industry who have become winners after a career setback or two.
We have many VPs of top retail companies who spent years in district or regional roles waiting for a chance to move ahead.
We have many who did not have opportunities to finish their educations but hung in and found the right circumstances where they were rewarded for their expertise in loss prevention.
We have some who were perceived as being too young and not ready for executive leadership, but someone gave them a chance to become winners.
We have expert women and minorities who have always been the underdogs in this business who have persevered and been rewarded.
We have others who have been perceived as losers as practitioners who achieved success as vendors or in different segments of the business world.
We are all underdogs at some point in our lives. We hear about those who have gotten back up on their horses and become winners. We don’t always seem to hear about those who walk away with their heads down.
I write these words for this reason: if things are not perfect for you or you are having a bad day or year, hang in there. Many of the best have been there before you and have felt the same anxiety. Many have felt that they were expected to lose, yet they shed the underdog tag and went on to win. Maybe it was a case of changing trainers (mentors), getting a new jockey (boss), or finding a new owner (company). Or perhaps it was all those years of constant practice that prepared them for their career moment.
There isn’t just one answer or one set of circumstances that depict the underdog story. But if you ask those who were once underdogs and are now winners, you will hear a story just as emotional as Seabiscuit.
One last parting word: take a moment of silence and family prayer this Memorial Day for all those soldiers who sacrificed to keep this country safe and secure.