First place is overrated.
I have never subscribed to the philosophy that not winning is the same as losing.
Vince Lombardi said:
“There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that’s first place. … There is a second place bowl game, but it is a game for losers played by losers.”
Don’t get me wrong. Winning is great. But, it is not everything.
My philosophy? There is a lot of money to be made in 2nd and 3rd place.
Look at the payouts for a pro golf tournament. Sure, first place takes a much larger purse. But, there are loads of players earning a darn good living despite never having won a major.
For example, Steve Stricker. Steve has never won a Major. However, according to Golf Monthly, as of December 2017, his career earnings were over $43 million. Still want to call him a loser?
To me, the greatest disservice we can do to our kids is to teach them that not getting the first place trophy makes them a loser. Yes, strive to be the best you can be. No, do not give trophies for showing up. But, learn to value yourself for more than a comparative ranking against others. The only ranking that matters is what you do vs what you are capable of doing.
Because of this predominant philosophy of you either win or you’re a loser, too many people stop trying. At some point you realize you’ll never get the first place trophy, so why even bother?
For some people, they never even start down a path. Others stop doing something that brings them joy because they don’t want to be viewed as a loser.
Julia Cameron, in her book, “The Artist’s Way”, encourages the reader to, “give yourself permission to do something poorly.” (paraphrased)
As Julia writes, it is only by being willing to make bad art that we can learn to make good art.
So it is with anything. We must be willing to fail in order to learn to succeed.
Or, in the context of the topic at hand, we must be willing to lose in order to have the chance to win.
Do not measure your success as a relative measure against the accomplishments of others. Rather, measure your success as a relative measure against what you know you are capable of doing.