Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

How You Can Win by Losing

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I am glad the Olympics take place only every 4 years. I was completely addicted.

I watch very little television. But over the 2 1/2 weeks that the games were on, I was tuned in nearly all of the time.

I know nothing about water polo. But I watched.

I care nothing about badminton. But I couldn’t turn it off.

Don’t even get me started about the modern pentathlon. My eyes were glued to the screen.

photo by owenfinn16 (Creative Commons)

Why I Want You to Lose

Take any sport, cover the uniforms of the participants with USA, put a gold medal up for grabs, and I am in.

And I don’t completely understand why. I just know that I wanted “us” to win. The Olympics ignite the competitive spirit within me. The sport is irrelevant. All that matters is victory.

This desire for competition represents how we often choose to live life. We tell our stories as if life itself is a race. That the only thing that matters if first place. Which also means that everyone else must lose.

Seth Godin refers to this as a “scarcity mentality.”  The assumption is that if they win, I lose. That if they get the gold medal, then I can at best get the silver.

Our businesses must be bigger. Our cars must be nicer and newer. Our kids must be better behaved and have better grades. Our vacations must be more exotic.

Strangers, friends, and sometimes even family are fellow competitors trying to beat us.

Celebrating Silver

There are athletes who showed up to London to win gold. They didn’t train that hard to come in second. It is an attitude that I respect and would expect every competitor to have.

But my favorite athletes are the ones that celebrate winning a silver medal. Or even better, a bronze.

At the risk of sounding like a kindergarten teacher, every athlete there has already accomplished something great. Yes, gold is exciting, but in the big picture, so is being good enough to qualify.

These athletes understand something important. Coming in second is not the end of the world. It is actually something worth celebrating. They find value in showing up and doing their best and enjoying the moment.

They find joy in celebrating the person who did win.

The competitors who get mad when they don’t win gold are pathetic to watch. As if their worth to the world solely depends on a piece of metal.

Helping Others Win

The secret to “winning” at life is to switch from being competitive to being supportive. To root for the other guy. To cooperate in the success of others.

We write better stories, when our lives are focused on helping other people live the best story they can. When we give them what they need to beat us at whatever we do.

  • This means sharing our financial resources.
  • This means promoting the work of others.
  • This means encouraging someone to keep going when life is hard.
  • This means donating our time to help others in their work.
  • This means feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and loving the poor.

It seems paradoxical doesn’t it?

But those of you with kids have already experienced winning by losing. You have committed your life to coming in second so that your children can win.

From financial sacrifice to changing how you live. From picking them up when they fell while learning to ride a bike to standing in the background when they raised their own arms in celebration.

And your heart was filled with joy even if your weren’t acknowledged.

A Lasting Joy

When an athlete climbs the podium to receive their gold medal, they felt something similar. The big difference is that their joy didn’t last. The Olympics are over and the moment is gone.

Their only hope is to win again. Some are able to, but eventually the winning stops. Somebody younger and quicker comes along, and the gold medal days are over.

But if we give ourselves to others, then our joy will never be taken away.

I can think of no better example than Jesus. His greatest victory came in death. He won when he was tried as a criminal and then publicly executed. All for crimes he didn’t commit.

All for you and me.

Have you ever won by losing? Have you found joy in helping others become something great?

You can share your story in the comments by clicking here.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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27 Replies

  1. Olu

    Wow thank you very much for a very insightful piece

  2. Thanks for participating, Olu.

  3. I love your servant’s heart. It is much easier to be selfish than it is to be selfless

  4. Giavana Jones

    A very timely message, as just this morning I struggled with the thought to not invite a friend, a sister in Christ, to join my small business endeavour because it would cut out my profit. Ack. I felt “bad” when I thought it but your post today gives me even greater perspective. Not guilt, but conviction. I was made to live bigger than selfishness. God provides the increase and His will is that I “share”. there is MORE than enough to go around in His kingdom. 🙂

  5. Cathie M

    I stumbled upon your blog a few months ago and I SO appreciate the stories, wisdom and encouragment you share. The wonders of the internet. I live in Canada and will probably never meet you, but I feel like I’m traveling the journey of life as a fellow sojourner, being cheered on to live a better story, and cheering in my heart for you as you share your journey with me and people all over the world. I don’t know where you find the time to write in between being a doctor and a husband and father of six, as well as being involved in a church, and whatever else. I trust that God gives you the inspiration, and it is also your determination to build into the lives of others. You have introduced me to so many wonderful stories of people living their lives for the glory of God in so many different ways. Katie Davis and Amazima is one that comes to mind. This inspires me to be more aware of how the Holy Spirit is nudging me to be more selfless and involved in the lives of others. Thanks so much for writing!

  6. Such a good post, Jeremy. I love this attitude.

    And as I read your opening, I couldn’t help but think, “ME TOO!”

  7. Thanks for sharing your view Jeremy. I didn’t watch that much of it but I agreed with what you’ve said. I do wish more athletes have that mentality to, but no…some must do everything to win even if it means cheating. That is something that has tarnish the Olympics for me, because with every victory comes a question mark. And what about the athlete that did it the right way, no matter what happens their story will always be left in the shadows. To me that is sad.

  8. haguejason

    Good stuff, Jeremy. I like how you apply the “scarcity mindset” here. It can affect us in so many areas of life. It keeps us self-centered. Giving away our time and energy is the best way to break it.

  9. Giving is a discipline. Meaning we have to do it on purpose and it is hard. But the more we do and see the benefits, the better we will become at it.

  10. I hadn’t thought of that. How to some the act of winning is so important that they will cheapen by cheating.

  11. It’s really weird how that happens. To call me a fencing fan is a stretch, but i watched anyways. Crazy.

  12. Have you read Katie’s book? It is worth the time and money.

  13. You are a great example of selfless, Jim.

  14. There is always room for more in his kingdom.

  15. Thank you Jeremy for this very insightful post. I love this phrase. “We write better stories, when our lives are focused on helping other people live the best story they can.” I also love the idea about how we can experience the joy of winning every day by helping others. This is so true. Thanks for writing this.

  16. It really is amazing how much fun it is.

  17. I know. I even watched that silly synchronized ballet thing (not the water ballet, but the kind with the flag waving dancers). I was riveted.

  18. And the hoola hoops? Crazy stuff.

  19. Great thoughts Jeremy.

    I have found great joy in loosing and helping others become great. But I have also been guilty of holding onto what is in my hand instead of giving it away. Am learning and growing 🙂

    Great reminder today.

  20. you guys were HOOKED! lol

  21. I really appreciate that Jeremy.

  22. Cathie M

    I just got it the other day and plan to read it next. Just started reading When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert, and just finished Crazy Love and Radical by David Platt. All kinda on the same theme.

  23. I have had moments of intense struggle over this truth. It’s not hard for me to serve certain people or celebrate certain people’s wins. It’s when the “competition” is close that I struggle. My younger sister was prettier, faster, smarter and thinner than me; talk about sibling rivalry. When I started to focus on the areas I excelled and celebrate our differences I was better able to celebrate her success. I’m coming to learn that our family, our community, is better when we’re all together celebrating the unique talents of each of us. As a writer that hits especially close to home in the writing community. Instead of feeling competition with other writers I’m learning there are many stories with value, that need to be told, not just one. This was a good reminder, I’m still growing in this area!

  24. sandra delemare

    Some comments on your intro – I can remember the joy of one of our divers getting bronze, when the Chinese guy who got silver seemed devasted. and we Brits were very pleased to come third – we’d done a lot better than we’d done in the past 100 years.
    Also, all through the olympics, I kept thinking of Paul’s words in 1Corinthians ‘Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever’ [9:25]. Do I live my life like that? sadly, no.

  25. Some of that has to do with expectations, but i think it also has to do with perspective. None of us live like we should right now. But today is a chance to remind ourselves and do something small that is one step closer.

  26. This is a great example. Thanks for sharing it. For myself, I’ve noticed that the writers I tend to be more critical of are the ones that I am most jealous of. This competition never seems to end. Here is to writing and encouraging and loving.

  27. This reminds of what Paul said in Phillipians 2 1:4 (MSG) ”
    If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”

    Great post Jeremy!

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