Competition is GREAT and why losing is often FAR BETTER

“If you ain’t first, you’re last. You know, you know what I’m talking about? “

– Ricky Bobby

“Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”

– Vincent Lombardi

“Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.”

– Michael Jordan

My morning run typically ends at a park. Given that summer has just started more than a few dozen kids can be found running around and playing on any given morning. In between sets, (pushups/pullups) I notice that seemingly everywhere kids are competing; racing on foot, racing on bikes (one tiny kid had a bike that didn’t even have peddles and was racing!) everywhere I looked kids were playing tag, soccer, etc. Then, it spilled out of my mouth; jaw dropped, ipod blaring in my ears, “duh, (i said to me) competition IS natural.”

News flash! It’s human nature to compete. However, somewhere between when I was six years old and my daughter turned six we became “NICE”. You know, no winners and no losers. “Don’t worry Jimmy, just feel good.” Sarah, (who scored 3 goals) looks confused as we explain why she didn’t actually win. “there are no winners Sarah.”

While there are many larger societal challenges at the moment this one is on my radar. When and WHY did we decide we could reverse thousands of years of competitive evolution and teach kids NOT to compete? Does anyone think Sarah really believes there are no winners? Who thinks the Olympic games are going to disappear anytime soon? Guess what, kids know better instinctively.

Our attempts to shelter our kids from this NATURAL and very REAL existence of competition (yes, there are actually winners and losers) is doing them a disservice and I think our collective good intentions are misdirected. First, it’s the wrong message. we shouldn’t be telling them there are no winners or losers. We should be teaching them and coaching them about HOW to compete, HOW to win, and yes, HOW to lose and even WHY competition is healthy and positive.

Breeds excellence

I’m pretty sure we all recognize competition literally breeds excellence. Is there an ugly side to competition? You bet. However, what we may be missing with each great LOSS is the lesson. Somebody once said,”when you lose, don’t lose the lesson.”

BTW: A “good” loser is really the opposite of Lombardi’s quote above. Let me explain. Lombardi is saying show me a loser who is “good” = used to and accepts losing and I’ll show you a “real” loser. That’s is entirely different from what a truly “GOOD” loser is. In fact, a good loser is Michael Jordan for instance. Yes. Pick yourself up off the floor.

“What!?” you declare “Jordan is one of the greatest winners on the planet! He has six championship rings” You retort. Correct. And how do you think he got that way? Via many, (in fact a lifetime) of loses… Never forget the road to Winnersville is paved by painful and bumpy stones and loses.

Why do you think Jordan’s quote is up above as well? A “GOOD” loser as he points out ( again, he’s the best there was) is a tough minded-optimist who does NOT like to lose (can’t stand losing) and is able to take the lessons (learn from the lessons) from any loss to become a winner. He did that pretty well I’d say. Indeed, this is the only way anyone becomes a “winner” via losing. In fact, there is no such thing as a winner – only a good loser who became a winner.

This is why telling our kids there is no loser is, dare i say, pretty stupid. Learn from losing PARENTS! Teach your kids the lessons. Good parenting is Good Coaching. (Can’t wait to see that bumper sticker). Good parenting is good coaching.

Competition is far better for the loser in my estimation than the winner, given the correct mindset. What is the correct mindset? Losing is temporary. Just like winning is and just like life is. In the context of time we can appreciate the ephemeral nature of any lose and find the lesson.

See Churchill below. Your life(time) is dynamic and not a static event. How many times has the failed Olympian rallied back after losing in a prior Olympic games? I think we have all heard the story about Jordan’s INABILITY to make his high school basketball team.

A tough minded LOSER ensures a healthy champion. Unless this is the Serengeti and we’re dealing with lions and antelope losing has a transcendent nature and therefore can afford us fantastic benefits.

How are your recent loses affecting you? Are they beating you down or firing you up?

It’s never been about the one with the raw talent that becomes the very best. It’s always about the one with a chip on their shoulder (something to prove, most importantly to themselves) spurred by past loses, failures, humiliations. The one who challenges themselves and positively changes their internal chemistry for ultimate success.

Life is a process… Winning is a process…. Losing is a prerequisite.


“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”.

Winston Churchill

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