Like many of you, I am fiercely competitive. I never let my kids win at games when they were little. If they won, it is because they won fair and square. No gimmees, no do-overs. They grew up knowing that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. That is part of life. Like it or not, nobody ever wins every time.
But that doesn't keep us from trying. I learned a lesson about my competitive spirit at a leadership retreat that I attended a number of years ago. This retreat brought together people who were strangers at the outset in an effort to build teamwork and comradery among the group, which would work together for the coming year. On the first day of the retreat we did all those annoying exercises about personality types and learning each others' names and other tortuous devices that teachers use to really build a spirit of teamwork. On the second day we melted together in the 105-degree Tuscaloosa heat as we spent the entire day on the ropes course. By the end of the second day I was mentally and physically exhausted and missed dinner because I went back to the room to take a shower before dinner and fell asleep. I slept until the next morning.
The third day I was refreshed. This was the last day of the retreat and we had been told that it would be spent in the confines of an air conditioned facility. All was well. And to top it off, we were going to play games all morning.
You've got to understand that I love playing games. They are fun, challenging, and best of all, I get the opportunity to WIN! In one game we were split into teams. I forget the exact premise of the game but essentially you had a number of options to play. I quickly deducted (and convinced my teammates to go along) that if we played a certain strategy we could cut our losses and assure that other teams could not earn points. It seems that there was a way in which there was a win-win situation and a win-lose situation.
Well, all the other teams went with the win-win scenario. They got it. That was the goal. As Zig Ziglar frequently said, the best way to be successful is to help others be successful. And the other teams got it. But even after two days of team building exercises my competitive spirit got the best of me and my focus was to win. I convinced my team to go along with my devious plan.
At one point in the game one of the people on an opposing team starting crying. "What is her problem," I thought. "Geez, I'm about to obliterate their team, but hey, it's only a game. Not everyone can win." After all, there's no crying in baseball. (If you don't understand this reference you should ask your parents if you can watch "A League of Their Own"--a great baseball movie with Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna.)
But what stuck me about this was that the person who was crying expressed that she felt betrayed. We had gotten to know each other, we had trusted each other with our very lives on the ropes course, and now our team was running over the other teams for the sake of winning. Yikes! Am I really that bad. Sadly, yes.
Did that quell my competitive spirit? No. But it did teach me a lesson and help me to understand that winning is great, but it is not the only thing. So why did I share this story with you? So I can win a Pulitzer Prize for my great website post? That'd be cool, but no. I shared it to help you to put winning and losing in perspective as that young lady did for me several years ago.
I want you to do the best that you can do. If that is better than the next team, then that's great. But if another team does better that's great also. I encourage you come to game day today just come asking yourself the following questions:
- Am I better (smarter, more skilled, more awesome) today than I was 42 days ago? If so, people who care about you probably helped you to develop and grow. Thank them for that. Your teachers and mentors really care.
- Did I learn something? My guess is that you did. And, if so, you are a winner. No trophy is necessary to affirm that.
- Was I a help (blessing, friend, encouragement) to anyone today? If not, what are you waiting for?
I am so looking forward to seeing all the great things you will do today and wish each of you the BEST...
Northeast Alabama BEST Robotics