How You Can Win by Losing
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.
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.
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?
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