If You’re Not First, You’re Winning

Quote from Seth Godin

I told my eight-year-old (daughter) that I think she might be getting a new bike this summer … her 10-year-old brother’s old bike, actually.

“But it’s black and it’s a boy’s bike,” she said.

I told her that’s the downfall of being last (born), but sometimes being last is a huge bonus.

Yes, being our third and final child means her life will be full of gently worn clothing that’s about 4 years out of date handed down from her sister and, in the case of her “new bike”, it means a boys bike. However, I explained, she gets to do all sorts of things her sister didn’t do when she was 8-years-old.  My 8-year-old stays up until 9 o’clock sometimes during the week and until 10 o’clock on weekends – or later. She gets to watch PG-13 movies. She definitely gets more junk food. She has an iTouch. At one point in my life the words, “no 8-year-old needs an iPad,” came out of my mouth. I’ve relaxed that stance.

I’m not in love with the, so-called “winners” who say things like, “if you’re not first, you’re last.” These win-at-all-costs types aren’t approaching life in a healthy way. If you’ve never lost at anything, you’ve never learned anything or, maybe worse, you’ve never really challenged yourself.

My son’s soccer team (U10), earlier this winter, went undefeated in their division and won a trophy. Most games were blowouts. It was quite a thrill getting the trophy and being “champion.” I’m not saying that doesn’t feel good. But then, in the second session, the divisions were restructured and suddenly we met up with teams we couldn’t beat so easily …or we couldn’t beat at all. It was humbling. The boys got mad. They pushed and shoved and yelled at each other.

I loved it.

I told them …if you win everything and win easily, you won’t improve. But when you take on the best and your goal is to beat the best …only then will you get better yourself.

I started this blog talking about my 8-year-old complaining about a hand-me-down boys bike. Well, that’s a symptom of not-being-first. But being last has many other benefits to her life. And when competing, yes, make it your goal to win and come in first-place, but remember this, too …when you lose, you win. You earn a chance to improve. You get to see a benchmark at which to evaluate yourself. A chance to analyze and think about what went wrong and why you finished in second, third, or 514th place (that’s where I finished in the longest triathlon and ya know what, I felt pretty awesome about that).

I’m the fastest sprinter in my house and I can lift the most weight. My competition is my wife, my 11-year-old daughter, 10-year-old son, and 8-year-old daughter. Yay me! (sarcasm). I can win every time. But what should I do? Go to the park and time myself running the hundred yard dash. Do exercises and drills to make me faster and see if I can shave a half-second or a full second off the time. That would be positive. That would be winning. Will I ever be able to beat Usain Bolt? At 5’5″ and 41-years-old …um …no. There’s not enough HGH and chemicals that can reverse the effects of aging or make my legs longer. But the fact I’ll never be faster than Usain Bolt doesn’t make me a “loser”.

“Winning doesn’t always mean being first. Winning means you’re doing better than you’ve ever done before.” -Bonnie Blair

Put yourself in a position to fail or to come in second place. Trust me, it will be your gain.

Coming soon on the blog …my take on P2 replacing email and Slack for team communication.

Follow me at @donkowalewski.

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