Sydney J. Harris was a journalist and newspaper columnist who wrote “Winners and Losers” in 1973. This slim 120 page volume packs a number of insights. I have selected a dozen that I thought were most applicable for entrepreneurs.

Winners and Losers

winners and losers by sydney j. harrisHarris believed that key differences in attitude and behavior led to the different outcomes that winners and losers experienced. I like Eric Berne’s definition of a winner as “a person who fulfills his contract with the world and with himself. That is, he sets out to do something, says that he is committed to doing it, and in the long run does it.”

“An idealist believes the short run doesn’t count.
A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter.
A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.”
Sydney J. Harris “Thoughts at Large”


“A winner makes commitments.
A loser makes promises.”
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

“Winners know what to fight for and when to compromise.
Losers compromise on what they shouldn’t and fight for what isn’t worthwhile.”
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

It’s only in making commitments that you can close deals and move your business forward. Sometimes it’s better to say no to certain requests so that you are certain you can honor what you have committed to.


Winners say, “There ought to be a better way”.
Losers say, “That’s the way it’s always been.”
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

“Winners listen.
Losers just wait their turn to talk.”
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

Without careful observation and listening it’s hard to understand how things work and what people believe and are concerned about. Entrepreneurs seek to improve the world but to do that they must build influence and that requires listening.


“Winners have a healthy appreciation of their abilities and an awareness of their limitations.
Losers don’t recognize their true abilities or their true limitations.”
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

“Winners work through problems.
Losers work around them.”
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

It’s only by recognizing current limitations that you can plan effectively and target what you need to improve.


Winners are sensitive to other’s feelings.
Losers are only sensitive to their own feelings.
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

Winners show they are sorry by changing their actions.
Losers say, “I’m sorry,” but do the same thing next time.
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

Empathy is a key skill for management, sales, negotiation, poker, and life.


Winners take a big problem and divide it into smaller parts so that it can be more manageable.
Losers take a lot of little problems and roll them together until they are unmanageable.
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

Winners work hard and find more time.
Losers are always “too busy.”
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

A divide and conquer approach and the ability to prioritize effectively can take you a very long way.


Winners make a mistake and say, “I was wrong”.
Losers make a mistake and say, “It was not my fault”.
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

Winners learn from their mistakes.
Losers only learn not to try again for fear of making more mistakes.
Sydney J. Harris in “Winners and Losers

The key to learning from your mistakes is to recognize them, remedy them as best you can, and understand what led you to make them. Mistaken intentions and poor values are harder to fix than slips in judgment.

“Time itself is indivisible, that every act is a blending of past experience, present situation and future expectancy.”
Sydney J. Harris

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