Why Winning Isn’t Everything, Nor Is It The Only Thing

Published on: September 19, 2019

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Is Winning Everything?

“Winning is not everything, but the effort to win is.” — Zig Ziglar

There is much to say about winning and based on the title of the article, you would think winning is not important. Let me be clear and state that winning is significant, for the right reasons. Sometimes winning is pursued for selfish reasons by validating a person’s self-worth. I’ve coached countless athletes over the years and recall on the occasions they were injured, their self-esteem took a hit. When they retired from sport because of injury or otherwise, it took them a long time to recover their self-worth. So if we only associate winning with our self-esteem, we are winning for the wrong reasons and hence why I say: winning isn’t everything, nor is it the only thing. What are your impressions about winning? Do you relate it with your self-worth?

This past weekend, I attended my young nephew’s basketball finals match. This was his first season playing basketball and his team was fortunate to make the finals. I attended most of his matches throughout the season and was impressed with the teamanship the young boy’s displayed. As with children playing sports, the parents were more invested in the outcome. Regrettably, they lost the final since the other team was stronger with noticeably taller players, which as you know in basketball is a contributing factor. What was interesting is the conversation I had with my nephew while driving home after the game. To appease him following the loss, I offered some wisdom saying: “Someone has to lose.” The point I was trying to make is that we don’t win all the time and we can gain valuable lessons from losing. Remarkably, he replied with a well-known quote attributed to the American football coach Vince Lombardi saying: “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”

Some take the view that winning is everything and if we subscribe to this way of thinking, we miss out on the growth that comes with losing. I’m not implying losing is something we aim for. I’m suggesting that winning and losing serve a purpose if we are mindful of what they bring to our lives. For example, what has been your greatest lessons from losing? I don’t mean in sports alone but other areas of life? I have learnt: humility, patience, tenacity and perseverance because of losing. These are qualities I would not have gained had I won. If we consider winning is everything, we perceive life through a narrow filter because life’s greatest wins may often arise from failure. Some of you are familiar with the former Chicago Bulls basketballer Michael Jordan’s junior career and how it shaped his destiny to be a winner. The point I wish to convey is that losing can be a powerful motivator and precursor to winning.

Winning Can Only Take Us So Far

“Winning is not always the barometer of getting better.” — Tiger Woods

For my nephew, losing meant shame, humiliation and a blow to his self-esteem. And it makes sense he would think this way as a young boy, however as adults we ought to teach children the value of losing to sharpen the saw of their character, as author Stephen R. Covey wrote in 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People. Losing can help us develop our skills and passions so we appreciate what is important to us. It helps us limit our focus and let go of whatever competes for our attention. Losing is pivotal if we are open to the lessons it conveys. If we associate losing with our self-worth, we become addicted to winning and lose sight of our true motives. Can you see that whilst winning is important, we must also be acquainted with losing to support our reason to win.

Sometimes winning can disrupt our lives if we pursue it with the wrong intentions. There have been notable sporting heroes over the years whose lives were derailed because of winning all the time. Some turned to: illegal use of drugs, reckless driving, public misconduct and marital affairs to name a few. They believed they were invincible and consider themselves winners only and not human beings with a capacity to win. I can list a dozen sporting heroes whose lives have been ruined because of winning but that is beside the point of this article. Winning can only take us so far and unless we continue to win, the only way is down. Losing affords us the gift of ascending the ladder of excellence while developing strength of character. It forces us to question our motives and many times we return stronger than before.

With this in mind, I’d like you to contemplate your relationship to winning. Consider one or two areas where you feel it’s important to win. Is it via a current relationship? Your career? Sporting or academic? Ask yourself: What do I hope to achieve by winning? Is it to enhance my self-esteem? What will this bring to my life long-term? Who do I hope to become as a result of winning? Try to get to the heart of why winning is important. I assure you, once you understand your motivations, winning and losing can become part of the same ideal where losing is not a final destination. Losing offers us the wisdom of growth and expansion because winning can lead to complacency. When we understand our reason to win, we accept winning more graciously and losing needn’t impact our self-worth but bolster it.

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