McKenna Haase: What it’s Like to Lose

One of the most common questions I get asked after a win is, “How did it feel to get the win?” Rather than writing about how great it feels to win, I decided to turn the question on its head and instead answer the question that hardly ever gets asked, “What’s it like to lose?”

We obviously race to win, and of course it’s great to post the smiles, the trophies, and the victory lane photos for the world to see. Of course no one likes to write about the losses, the failures, the tears, and the embarrassing moments. However, without them, there would be no wins, there would be no trophies, and quite honestly, everyone loses much more than they win. One of my goals for this season was to win a 360 feature at Knoxville, and I’m grateful we were able to accomplish that for our team and supporters. However, off the track and on social media, my goal was to be more real. I’m far from perfect. I make mistakes, and I’ve lost. A lot. With that being said, I’ve created a list of 5 takeaways I’ve had from losing.

#1 – Learn: While life would be great if everything you did was perfect, unfortunately that’s not reality. I try my best to love everyone, including those who aren’t my biggest fans. I try my best to forgive others and owe apologies on my end when needed. However, as humans we’re not perfect and come up short. Therefore, off the track I’m thankful for all the times I’ve ‘lost’ in these ways, because they’ve allowed me to learn how to be a better person in the future. The same goes for on the track. I’ve never had a bad night that I didn’t learn. It’s on these nights that I look back and analyze every part of the race, every line, and every pass to envision how I can do it better next time. I don’t always see the results right away because that comes with experience, but regardless, I learn.

#2 – Humble: Everyone loses, and losing is a great way to bring you back to earth when you get too high. One of my favorite parts of every week is going back to my local go-kart track that I grew up racing at to help the youth racers in my driver development program. One of the reasons I love this is that all of their races are the night before mine. Therefore, I get to go back to where I started and remember where I came from before hitting the track myself on the big stage. No matter how bad or how good I do on Saturday, I can look back at how far I’ve come and be thankful for all the opportunities I’ve been blessed with.
#3 – Winning is sweeter: Winning wouldn’t be special if you didn’t have to fall down 20,000 times leading up to it. For many people, the first time they hear of a driver is when they’re in the spotlight. However, there’s not a driver that’s ever won that didn’t win behind the scenes in the months and years leading up to it. Unfortunately, oftentimes the only people that see the hours spent training, working on sponsors, working on racecars, practicing, and more, are the athletes themselves. No one sees the hours spent crying, the sleepless nights, and the arguments. No one sees the athletes looking themselves in the mirror at night wondering why they continue to fight in order to do what they do. I’ve experienced all of these things, along with my competitors. No matter how put together we look at the track, not a one of us didn’t have a mountain to climb to get there.

#4 – Come together: If humans were just fine on their own, they wouldn’t need each other. It’s the tough times, the bad days, and the losses that cause us to look to one another for help and hope. I’m beyond grateful for the fans, sponsors, family, friends, and fellow competitors that lift me up when I need it and support me no matter what. There’s no greater feeling of love than that of a hug from a little fan on a bad night. I can’t describe the feeling of gratitude and respect I have for the other drivers that take time out of their night to give me a pep talk or give me tips on how I can be better. Our communities and our world are forever better when we unite with one another, no matter how competitive we are.

#5 – I don’t try to lose: This takeaway lies very close to my heart, and I think it’s the most important fact that any critic can learn from. I’m hands down, 100% my worst critic. One of my favorite quotes is, “I don’t measure my success based on what I accomplish, I measure my success based on what I should’ve accomplished with my ability.” Oftentimes I have people tell me I’m way too hard on myself. However, I try not to be hard on myself for no good reason. Rather, I have specific goals and expectations that I try to set realistically based on what I know I can accomplish. The mental aspect of accomplishing your goals is the most difficult aspect to conquer, and I’m far from an exception. As a martial artist and a racecar driver, I have to be mentally tough, but it doesn’t come easy and isn’t guaranteed. I don’t try to lose, I don’t want to lose, and I don’t like to lose. When I do, I’m well aware and don’t want to make the same mistakes again. That is where losing and winning intersect. That is what turns a loser into a winner. That is how history is made, how records are broken, and how races are won. I’ve ran some terrible lines, made some horrible passes, and had countless bad nights behind the wheel, but the one thing I’ve never done is I’ve never quit. It took going below and beyond those limits to find out where my limits are. It’s been an honor and dream come true to win in every type of vehicle that I’ve raced, and my goal is to win in more. Until then, I’ll be learning from the losses, grateful for the opportunities, and hopefully having a whole lot of fun along the way.