If winning isn’t everything

If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score? Vince Lombardi

Sure, winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” Henry Sanders

Being an Olympic junkie – having worked the games for clients when I was at Burson-Marsteller;

And being that we are in Olympic mode with the start of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver;

And being that I stay up late to watch even the curling;

And being that MSFT Silverlight powers the videos for the NBC Olympic Web site;

And, finally, given that my Ramble last week dealt with winning and losing;

I felt compelled, nay, almost competitive, to ramble on winning, but from a slightly different perspective…

Despite the hold-hands kumbaya, we-are-one veneer of the Olympics – a little cynical, but I still watch  – it certainly looks like winning for many is in fact everything.  Witness the tragic death of the Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during a training run and the ensuing controversy about how much competition is enough.

So is that all there is? Is it only about the Gold? What if I win the Silver? The Bronze? What about the fact that I just get to compete? I am in the company of the best in the world – isn’t that worth something and can’t I do something positive with that for the rest of my life?

As I pondered this, I suddenly remembered an article I had read – years before – on Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners of Olympic medals and their attitudes toward their standings. Through the technological magic of the digital age, I found it with one Bing and one click.

The study was simple. It looked at winners across the three categories (Gold, Silver, and Bronze) and looked at how the second- and third-place winners reacted to their achievements – were they winners or losers?

“In 1995, a study was carried out by social psychologists Victoria Medvec, Scott Madey and Thomas Gilovich on the effects of counterfactual thinking on the Olympics. The study showed that athletes who won the bronze medal were significantly happier with their winning than those athletes who won the silver medal. The silver medalists were more frustrated because they had missed the gold medal, while the bronze medalists were simply happy to have received any honors at all (instead of no medal for fourth place) [1]. This is more pronounced in knockout competitions, such as the FIFA World Cup, where the bronze medals are achieved by winning a playoff, whereas silver medals are awarded after a defeat in the final.”

Bottom line? As the study reported:

“Being one of the best in the world can mean little if it is coded not as a triumph over many,

but as a loss to one. Being second best may not be as gratifying as perhaps it should.”

Follow it all here.

And there you have it – we win, we lose. We get into a final, we don’t – we get invited to a party, but not the VIP reception – we debrief and report that we came in second…as the other nonwinners are debriefing and hearing the same.

What does it all mean?

Frankly – who knows…not even Job …or the movie A Serious Man have a clue…

But this much I know – I think…

When a win is only about winning or when a lose is only about losing, the future state is bleak.

To that end – quoting from yet another sports source – in fact a world record holder to this day:

If you can react the same way to winning and losing, that is a big accomplishment. That quality is important because it stays with you the rest of your life. Chris Evert

And there you have it, or in the words of Kipling:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”

My take is to know that I played the ”game” as well and as focused and as dedicated as possible. And the game is life – work, home, friends, and colleagues – it makes no difference – in the end – we will win and we will lose and the balance will be determined by ourselves – but only if we are balanced – I think that is what it’s all about…

What do you think?

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