Taking an ‘L’

Have you ever done something over and over again, knowing it would produce a negative result each time you did it? How many times was it a lesson before you new better? In this post, I will discuss what taking an ‘L’ means, and the insightful way my friend explained it to me that changed my view of the entire phrase.

What does ‘taking an L’ mean?

For those of you not up on 2020 slang, ‘taking an L’ typically means ‘taking a loss’; this can mean in sports, life, relationships, or anywhere you failed an endeavor or didn’t get a pleasant outcome. This can mean literally, as in your sports team losing, or in a more figurative sense, like when you walk out of a test you didn’t study for and knowing you got a bad grade. It’s opposite, getting a W, means getting a win, but we aren’t concerned with that here.

The two types of L’s

Like I said, taking an L usually means taking a loss. However, a friend proposed another definition that changed the way I think of it: taking a loss vs. learning a lesson. The difference between the two is that a lesson is something you only can learn only once, maybe twice, when you don’t have enough information or experience to make an educated guess on how to proceed. Losses are everything after that.


The thing about lessons is that they can be tremendously beneficial if you learn from them. Let’s take the example of cooking. When you are learning to cook, there are countless mistakes to be made, as this is part of the learning process. If you undercook your chicken and realize it is inedible, the lesson to be learned here is to cook your chicken for longer or at a higher temperature. If next time, you try to cook it the same exact way and expect it to be fully cooked, that would be when you start taking L’s as losses.


Losses are what you get when you already got the lesson; you did whatever cringy or uninformed thing it was, figured out what you needed to do next time to avoid it, but still did it anyway. A common example is people who keep dating the same person or same type of person expecting something new to happen. As long as their behavior hasn’t changed and neither has yours, why would you expect anything to change? You can expect to take losses in that department all day long until one of you decides to move on from the cycle. L’s as losses at a certain point become choices; you are no longer taking the losses, they are taking you (and it’s not in a good direction).


Just because you ‘took an L’ doesn’t mean it has to be a bad thing; experience is a great teacher, and the wisdom lessons give will help you become a more sensible individual. If you refuse to heed the lesson and don’t change your behavior, however, you will start seeing the losses. L’s on L’s on L’s. No one wants to be the person that takes L’s all the time even when they know better, so take the lessons you are fortunate enough to get and try to do better the next time.

Want to read my thoughts on failure? Check out my post about failing before you succeed.

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