What I learned from 2nd place

I just realized I may be infinitely happier coming in second place. I may have always been in second place. I was never the lead in the school play, always the supporting cast. In any competition I ever entered I more often than not came in second. Same with baseball, with my school of choice in college, and that three-year stint I had as a Matador in the early 2000’s. I was always second, I mean creepily so, I consistently came in second place in just about every endeavor I ever undertook.

For years I listened to the panel of experts living inside my head saying things like, “why don’t you ever win anything”? “Does anybody take you seriously”? For years I wrestled with my own self-esteem and built a mountain of self-doubt by constantly questioning why I wasn’t number one, that greatest of all American desires. All this winning I needed to collect was making me tired and frankly really cranky.

“Second is the first loser” people often say. That pressure was killing me. “Now I’m a loser”? “fuuuuuuuuck”! My entire person was being assaulted with images of people being number one. I figured if my life wasn’t a real world version of a Nike commercial where I was running at 4:30 in the morning with about 20 other hyper-focused, jacked up type-A’s, I was actually a loser. The term “peak performer” is thrown around in business circles like it’s a job title. “I was talking to so-and-so, a peak performer in the online marketing space…”. Me need shower.

But there’s hope for us Two’ners. According to an article in Scientific American, most people are actually happier with their second choice if it’s a “wildly different” alternative as opposed to a low rent version of their first choice. For example if you’re craving gourmet Swiss chocolate and the only things available are either a shittier version of chocolate or a granola bar, statistically more people enjoy the granola bar than the crappier chocolate.

That got me thinking, why fight it? Why not lean into the fact that I’m a great number two. That actually, my life has been a huge adventure, a Mr. Toad’s wild ride of epic experiences, a ton of travel, life long relationships with friends, with my wife (she was my first choice), my kids and a decent living. Hey, this life of being number two is pretty fucking awesome. I mean, as a solid number two, I’ve gotten to stand behind some pretty incredible people.

Hold on a second, what’s this list that I’m number two on? Who’s the one keeping track? How does the ranking system work? What points were they deducting that made me a number two? Was it poise? Was it the swimsuit competition? Or my clumsy answer about the state of education in America?

Hey, wait a minute, is there even a list? I’m beginning to think that this list is a load of bullshit.

I’m no number two. Fuck you. I’m just a “wildly different” alternative… kind of like a really good granola bar.

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