Though most people know her for her epic 13-hour-long filibuster blocking an anti-abortion bill, Wendy Davis has had another defining moment in her career. After her tireless effort to block the anti-abortion measures in 2013, the former Texas senator ran a gubernatorial campaign that led to a landslide loss. But instead of hanging her head low and disappearing from the political scene, losing taught Davis some invaluable lessons and she walked away not defeated, but fortified. She describes this pivotal moment in her essay "I Fucking Hate to Lose" in the latest issue of Lenny. Wendy's piece is an incredibly inspirational look at loss and reveals why she's practically the poster girl for tenacity.
In her essay, Davis describes the competitive spirit that her father instilled in her from a young age as the "driving force" that has led her to accomplish great things. It's what got her and her daughter out of the trailer park and it's what charted her course from community college to Harvard Law School. It was this unflinching fighting spirit that kept her going into the 13th hour on the Senate floor and helped her mount her campaign for Texas governor. Even though Davis's run ended in what The Washington Post described as a "massive disappointment," she came out the other side with the realization that it's not about whether you win or lose, but whether you fought in the first place.
Now, Davis is planning to launch a women's equality initiative and is entertaining the idea of running for office again. In other words, she is a living, breathing lesson in not giving up, wisdom that she has generously imparted in Lenny. Here are nine quotes from her candid and inspirational essay on loss.
1. "Not yet really knowing what I was going to say, I opened my mouth, and something from the most honest part of me tumbled out: 'I fucking hate to lose.'"
Here Davis is describing the emotional turmoil of losing her gubernatorial race and how it inspired her to get really candid. She's reminding us that it's OK to admit not only defeat, but how much you hate it.
2. "There is value in fighting for something important to you, even when the outcome is not what you hoped it would be."
Davis quotes Teddy Roosevelt to underscore this point: "It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed."
3. "What are you willing to fight for, even if the odds are stacked against you, even if you'll most likely lose? In answering that, you'll find what's really important to you."
Instead of asking Robert Schuller's well-known question "What is the one thing you would attempt if you knew you could not fail?" Davis suggests asking the question above, because your answer will truly define you.
4. "I've found that the things worth fighting for are always the hardest. ... There is meaning in each of those fights, in speaking truth to power and giving voice to unpopular causes."
Here Davis is referring to her many losses, like when Governor Rick Perry stomped on her short filibuster victory by passing the anti-abortion Senate Bill 5, when her equal-pay law was vetoed, and of course when she lost the Texas governor race by a 20 percent margin. Even though these were all losses, that's not what she takes away from these experiences. Instead, she remembers the small victories of bringing people together on the campaign (34,000 people volunteered) and working together to improve their state.
5. "Such was my mind-set as I spoke to my campaign team that day after we lost. ... I asked them to own their courage and told them that the only way we will have failed is if we give up and stop trying."
This quote smacks of the classic Rocky adage "It ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward."
6. "The losses I've endured have taught me that I am more powerful than the limitations of failed efforts."
Wendy reminds us that true power comes not from winning, but from how we handle our losses.
7. "So, my advice to you: if you fail, fail big! Fail with flair! Fail trying to do something real, something hard."
Wendy's bottom line is: don't be afraid to fail, as long as you try.
8. "Look at each battle scar you've earned as a tiny crack that will heal and make you stronger than you were before."
Battle scars are important because a person can't test their boundaries and know the true depth of their character without racking up some failures.
9. "And, as we'd say in Texas, get back up on that horse and ride to see another day."
Davis ends her piece like a true Texan.