Winning is for Losers
The image above is from the Olympic Games in Rio 2016. It shows Phelps in the lead looking forward. Meanwhile, Le Clos is looking at Phelps from second place.
The quote that I saw most often associated with this image was:
Winners focus on winning and losers focus on winners
I had a different take on this.
In my opinion, focusing on winning is the wrong thing to do. As trite as it may sound, I believe that one should focus on being the best that THEY can be.
Winning can be looked at as doing better than the others. The problem with that is that how can you be sure of what the others will do?
Not only have you hinged your success to something you can’t control, but you’ve also made your position reactionary. It leads to one-upmanship. Sacrifices innovation.
The other way to look at winning is for the others to do worse. This leads to competitive shenanigans. Sabotage and the like. Making sure the others don’t have the same chance.
Focusing on winning usually results in a loss of resources and an increase of combativeness.
That is, if viewed as a zero sum game, you then have to view everyone else as a competitor.
This is obvious but the implication isn’t.
Most people would never ask for help from an adversary. Most would never seek to learn from those they compete against.
Often, competitions aren’t one on one, but one against many. By focusing only on winning, everyone else becomes an opponent. The odds become much more daunting.
Worse still, these people will lose out on the most valuable resource available to them. Another who is going through the exact same thing. Think of the knowledge to be gained.
It’s for this reason that once people begin to focus solely on winning, they begin to lose that winning edge they had before.
The best Apple
Back in the day, Apple was just a computer company that wanted to make the best computer they could. As they saw fit. Not as the industry demanded.
Eventually, they became a very successful company. Apple remained in the shadow of Microsoft, but still very successful in it’s own right, especially back then.
When they started to hit their stride, the company changed drastically. They ousted Jobs and began to focus on winning.
They focused, not on being a better company, but on being a better company than the rest.
The company lost it’s way and almost completely failed.
Jobs came back and put Apple back on a path to make the best devices they could make. To be the best Apple they could be.
Apple has become the highest valued, most profitable company in the world. Not because they decided that’s what they were going to be but because that’s what the best Apple looked like.
A quick example
Usain Bolt. The fastest human ever.
Do you believe that Usain Bolt set out to be the fastest human ever? If he had, would he have succeeded?
If any other person had set out with the same goal, the same determination, would they have succeeded?
The truth is, the best Usain Bolt that we have seen happens to be the fastest human that we have seen.
There are plenty of people that set out to be THE BEST. Plenty of people fail. There can only be only one THE BEST. Currently, that’s Usain Bolt.
In a couple years, that might not be the case. If that ever does happen, will Usain Bolt consider himself a failure?
You can’t lose
You can’t ensure you will win. You can’t ensure that you will be the largest most profitable company in the world. You can’t ensure that you will be the fastest human ever.
Apple couldn’t ensure it would win that challenge. Neither could Usain Bolt. They didn’t intend on being those things. They were just doing their best.
The second fastest human ever is still bonkers fast. If that person is only interested in winning though, then second is not going to cut it.
Imagine, being able to consider yourself the second fastest human but be discontent because you’re ONLY the SECOND FASTEST HUMAN.
That might be the biggest problem with focusing on winning. If you focus only on winning, how can you be content with “losing”?
If you don’t focus on winning, you can lose and still be successful. You can lose and still be the best you.
That, is a win in my book.