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Serena Williams to Startup Founders: Admit Your Losses if You Want to Win

Serena Williams hates the word “losing,” but she’s totally OK with loss.

The star tennis athlete and entrepreneur opened up about how she learns from her losses during BetterUp’s recent Inner Work Day event. BetterUp is a leadership coaching company.

Williams says that when she loses, she learns a great deal from the experience. “As much as I hate it, some of my best growth has come from a loss,” she shares. “And for me to actually get to the next level, like, I would’ve never won that Grand Slam or that tournament had I not lost to that person on that day, no matter how much it hurt.”

Williams stresses that it’s important to learn from our losses. After all, losing is one of the greatest forms of feedback. It can help you pinpoint your weaknesses and work to strengthen them. It can also keep you grounded. If you win all the time, you start to think you can’t lose — and that makes you cocky. 

Williams also values this ethos in her business, Serena Ventures, which focuses on investing in early-stage businesses. For example, when one of her investments isn’t performing well, she reflects on what she learned from that experience and how she can prevent making the same mistake in the future.

And as much as people dislike talking about their losses, she likes to hear about a founder’s failures when she’s considering an investment.

Because losing or failing, to her, helps build character and resilience. She even views it as an asset and is more likely to gravitate towards founders who are open and honest about their past losses because it prepares them for how to maneuver the next obstacle that might come their way. 

“I feel like it’s actually super important to have those losses or those bumps in the road,” she says.

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