Jerry Seinfeld put it this way in 1998 – “When you think about it, you win the gold – you feel good; you win the bronze – you think, “Well, at least I got something.” But when you win that silver it’s like, “Congratulations, you almost won. Of all the losers you came in first of that group. You’re the number one loser. No one lost ahead of you!”
Jerry was echoing a Cornell University study of the Barcelona Olympics finalists who concluded that gold medal winners are the happiest, but bronze medalists were happier than the silver medalists. People who refuse to accept the facts, see the silver medal as a rebuke: You should have tried harder. They think, “If only I had trained harder or gotten off to a better start or pushed the envelope just a bit harder.” They do not accept the reality of what is. They have not achieved their goal of winning gold so they think failure.
Bronze medalists, having come to terms with the elusive gold, are simply pleased to be on the finalist platform. They are happy about the showing they have made in terms of all those who didn’t make it at all. They actually have more pleasure in their achievement than the silver medalist in his, because silver doesn’t see it as achievement. He sees it as loss.
Do you suppose there is anything there for all of us who are non-Olympians? I’m thinking life in general here. There are those who choose to ignore the reality that even though all run, only one can win. Does that mean that only one is significant? Only one is real? Only one should be treated with respect and honor? To think this way produces behavior that destroys the living environment whether of family, school, job or community.
Matthew Tucker sees the “all or nothing” mentality in sports as a danger to avoid. Especially during developmental years of school. Kids embrace the winner-only mentality and set themselves up for life-long disappointment because it is “simply not true or mentally healthy for anyone.”
“I lost 2 times in the State Wrestling finals and felt like a loser for well over 10 years. I think a great deal of that sense of loss came from coaches and even my parents. I could sense their disappointment. My coach even said, “Well that was a waste of 4 years!” referring to the 4 years he coached me. My mom and dad wouldn’t even talk about it.
“Both kids I lost too went on to have highly successful careers and one nearly qualified for the Olympic team twice. Now I get to say I went toe-to-toe with some of the best. Hind sight is 20/20. I should have been more proud of what I accomplished.
“When I went on to coach wrestling, I had a kid that lost in the state finals just like I did. I made sure to hug him and tell him how proud he should be. I even bragged about him to everyone and I made a big deal about him at the team banquet. I think the second place response says a lot about our society and our over idolizing of athletes in general.”
Final consideration: job appraisals. Whether end of year or beginning of year, you can prepare yourself by preparing your mind. Before the appraisal eliminate surprises by asking questions. During the appraisal don’t argue, paraphrase what you heard, ask questions, be prepared to accept the need to improve.
For further reading on the effect of the silver-medal attitude on the job, read the article by Jeff Haden titled, When Winning Feels Like Losing.
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