Friday, August 15, 2008

Losing & Losers

There are roughly 10,500 athletes competing in the Olympic Games this year vying for 246 medals, which means that the odds are considerably against earning a Gold, Silver, or Bronze for the athletes in Beijing.

There are roughly 6.7 billion people on this earth and about 8.7 million millionaires, meaning that the large majority of the world population will never be able to call themselves a millionaire.

There is no real correlation between these two stats other than we define success at the Olympic Games by winning a medal and we define success in life by being a millionaire. Statistically speaking, the large majority of us will “lose” because we don’t fit into the societal perception of being extremely successful. Other than this being a who cares moment, it brings to question what it means to “lose” and what it means to be a “loser”.

What Olympians and millionaires do have in common is that they lose far more than they win. The commitment to becoming successful in sport has the same principles as becoming wealthy through hard work. In both scenarios failure will supersede success, so what we learn from losing will allow us to succeed in the end. If we fail to learn through losing and allow our emotions to overcome our ability to rationalize, then we enter the realm of loser. Our inability to adjust socially to loss causes us to become an eccentric who doesn’t fit in with societal norms.

Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian in this years Olympic Games is the prime example of making the transition from losing to loser. After earning the Bronze medal in his sport (he thought he should be given the chance to wrestle for Gold, but was cheated by an officiating error) Abrahamian took the medal off his neck and threw it on the wrestling mat saying that this was not his medal, he deserved Gold. Through his perception of loss, which is many athletes ideal gain, he went from Olympic medalist to world class loser in no time flat.

Because this happened on a grand stage, it is an obvious display of childish behavior at its worst, but really not that odd in everyday life. By the minute, we overreact to loss in irrational ways, fail to see our fault in losing, misplace perspective in what has happened, and become losers through our actions.

Losing is our failure to obtain, win, or maintain something and is a temporary state when approached thoughtfully and methodically. Being a loser is someone who is adversely affected by a situation and displays maladjusted behaviors. Unlike losing, being a loser is not a temporary state, it is a trait that is earned through a single action or repeated actions.

Statistics don’t lie. The large majority of us will never be an Olympic medalist, nor will we become millionaires. Our efforts will be relegated to becoming world class people without classification. We, like Olympians and millionaires, will lose far more than we will win and will continue to have the opportunity to define our success in life. This success is only possible by learning through losing. Even if we can’t do this, we still have the opportunity to become world class; only this time it is with the classification of loser.

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