Take the L
“You just can’t win”
The other day, I was on a walk with a friend. It’s our staple hangout - we use the time to catch up on each other’s lives. Mostly, we’re telling self-deprecating stories about recent events. (We like to laugh at our own misery.)
As I finished sharing my latest mishap, he responded with a chuckle. “You just can’t win, huh?”
Though it was said in jest, there was a hint of truth to it. Yet, I wasn’t bothered.
In fact, I was surprised by my lack of a reaction. I identify as a winner. I hate losing or messing up. So why don’t these situations affect me?
I realized that it’s because of my attitude. By turning it into an amusing story that you can laugh at, you take charge of the narrative. This flips failure on its head - it no longer controls or defines you.
“You turn everything into a lesson”
Another time, I was on a trip with a few other friends. There, we went cliff-diving for the first time. The day after, we went hiking. On the trail, I was sharing with a friend everything that the experience taught me about fear.
He laughingly observed: “You really turn every small moment into a big lesson, don’t you?”
I’m still not sure if he meant it as a compliment, but that’s how I took it.
I don’t waste an opportunity to learn from an experience, however small. I always take the lesson. Why wouldn’t you?
Take the L
It took me a while to understand why these two seemingly unrelated comments stuck with me. When I finally connected the dots, I learned something about myself: I take the L.
Not in the traditional sense of the phrase, though. Instead of giving in to failure, I make it work for me.
Let me explain.
Take the L is an expression that originally stands for “take the loss”. It represents surrender. It conveys a sense of resignation, that you should just accept defeat and stop trying.
I’ve never been a fan of this interpretation. It’s a passive and negative attitude towards failure. It suggests that you should silently come to terms with your fate and give up, rather than fight through the problem.
So, I’m reclaiming the phrase and turning it into a symbol of agency and optimism.
To me, taking the L is about being active. Assertive. Aggressive. Instead of passively submitting to defeat, you seize the opportunity and make the most of it. Nothing is handed to you - you have to take it.
This means exerting your agency over the situation and making it work for you.
There are two ways to do this, as each of my stories show.
The first is simply accepting failure or “taking the loss”. Not as a setback, but as an objective reality. If you can see it for what it is, it loses its power. It no longer defines you. You may even be able to laugh about it. This diffuses the tension and lets you turn a not-so-fun situation into an amusing one.
The second is learning from failure or “taking the lesson”. Every mistake is an opportunity in disguise. It exposes your weaknesses and, as a result, where you need to focus your effort. By seizing the moment, you turn a hurdle into a launching pad. You can’t fix what you don’t know.
In either situation, you didn’t take the L in the traditional sense. You didn’t passively submit to defeat.
Instead, you actively “took the loss” or “took the lesson”. You stepped up and reshaped failure into something productive, whether it’s a funny story or a learning opportunity. You made the most of the situation.
Dare I say… you took the Lemons and turned them into Lemonade?
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