How to Not Be a Loser, Baby

It was 6:08 a.m. yesterday morning. Before contemplating a five mile run in the 47 degree dewy outdoors, I walked past the entryway to the second floor of the Bay Club in Redwood Shores, California. And there it was — a crinkly piece of paper on the bulletin board by the squash courts. It contained what looked like an essay — old school, more than a bit judgy, and yet it captured my attention. Here it is.


Winning isn’t normal. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with winning. It just isn’t normal. It’s highly unusual.

Every competition has only one winner. No matter how many people are entered, only one person or team wins the championship.

Winning is unusual — as such it requires unusual action.

In order to win, you must do extraordinary things. You cannot just be one of the crowd. The crowd doesn’t win. You have to be willing to stand out and act differently.

Your actions need to reflect unusual values and priorities. You have to value success more than others do. You have to want it more. WANTING IT MORE IS A DECISION YOU MAKE AND ACT UPON — NOT SOME INHERENT QUALITY OR BURNING DRIVE OR INSPIRATION! You have to make that value a priority.

You cannot train like everyone else. You have to train more and train better.

You cannot talk like everyone else. You cannot think like everyone else. You cannot be too willing to join the crowd, to do what is expected, to act in a socially accepted manner, to do what is “in.” You need to stand out in the crowd and CONSISTENTLY take exceptional action. If you want to win, you need to accept the risks and perhaps the loneliness because…………..WINNING ISN’T NORMAL!!!

Apparently, this essay is excerpted from an old and very short book by sports psychologist Keith Bell called, Winning Isn’t Normal. While there are parts I find a bit repugnant, it is arguably filled with plenty of truisms. My favorite take-away is disbanding the notion that so-called normal is a good thing in most any aspect of one’s life. (EXTRA ordinary sounds much better to me.). Oh, and I believe an abundance of “burning drive” is required.

But how can those of us in the daily work world translate this concept of winning to make the most positive impact? Also, how can we add to the notion of winning while ensuring it is less black-and-white? By black-and-white I mean abandoning the “second place is nothing but first loser!” meme, which inevitably makes me chuckle but…come on…is a bit harsh.

Well, lucky for you I listened to a brief Tim Ferriss podcast yesterday featuring Derek Sivers. He was asked to define “success.” As soon as he dismissed the BS that success has anything to do with acquiring a lot of money, I was intrigued. When he then said success is about mastering your “inner game,” I was hooked. And I think his definition is equally applicable to winning.

I am going to loosely interpret what I remember, given that I was walking my dog, it was a beautiful and sunny day…I mean, come on people!

ONE: Manage and direct your thoughts proactively. — Hey, nobody said this was easy, or that you need to be a one-hundred-percenter in this area, but what a lovely concept. Managing your thoughts in a positive direction ultimately leads to more positive emotions and productive actions. This also includes managing your reactions more positively in response to the many minor and not so minor adversities we inevitably encounter.

TWO: Add value and contribute to others. — This certainly includes philanthropic endeavors but also encompasses what y’all do during your workday. Heck, it includes everything in your life. For example, do you think marriage is a 50/50 partnership? OK, then please tell me what other area in your life you think you can phone it in with a 50 percent effort. Nope, marriage is about giving everything you can and dropping the transactions ledger.

THREE: Master ‘people skills.’ — This means seeing things from other people’s perspective, or stated differently, gaining more empathy. Daniel Goleman has written the book — actually many books — on emotional intelligence (EQ).

FOUR: Keep learning. — Continuously feeding your curiosity is where it is at. Constantly being willing to learn something new in existing areas of expertise and acquiring knowledge in new areas is what I’m referring to here. This is because the very idea of the value of “knowledge” is subservient to the ability to constantly learn. If you don’t believe me, let me introduce you to my friend, the “Neighborhood Carburetor Repair Man.” For you non auto junkies out there, carburetors started disappearing from automobiles about 25 years ago. However, mere learning isn’t enough. You need to apply that learning in order to master yourself and help others. This requires long amounts of focus and single tasking.

Think about it this way: you proactively direct your own thoughts in order to gain more inner peace and take more meaningful actions, thereby adding more value for others. You ensure you are able to connect with those “others” more effectively by increasing your EQ. You constantly nourish your mind and this entire process with continuous learning. And with focus, this all comes together.

The end result is a self-reinforcing mastery machine for winning in the arena that counts the most — becoming a better version of ourselves.

And no, not for a minute do I believe winning in the game of life is a zero-sum game. This is because there does not have to be a “loser” in the contest I am referring to.


NOTE: And one more thing: I use the term “loser” in complete jest as I only appreciate the term in a humorous and/or the occasional sarcastic context.

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