In 2002, then coach of the New York Jets, Herm Edwards, gave a now much lampooned post game press conference where he said “you play to win the game”. For all the ridicule Herm has taken for that speech we must understand this; he was and still is right and if you think otherwise, you are selling yourself short.
A major reality of life is that we live in a competitive world where we are expected to compete for what we earn. Despite this reality, in North America we are finding new and innovative ways to remove competition from society so that people don’t get hurt from “losing”. This process of misinterpreting competitions role in play is creating a generation of people ill prepared to work in a world that is growing more competitive by the day. The end result is creating a group of individuals that believe they are owed the same benefits for trying as those receive for accomplishing.
The root of this misconception lies in our inability to define competition in play accurately. We are continually playing a game in life either for recreation, profession, or sport where the purpose needs to be on winning the game we are playing. The way we learn to define “win” will enable us to either become empowered and compete or play victim and expect.
The act of winning is not getting something while defeating others, it is arriving somewhere by great effort. Defining a “win” by your ability to defeat another person is the reason for the influx of noncompetitive/everyone wins games that we are promoting to society by the masses. What we actually need to be doing is promoting the idea that arrival by great effort is the definition of a winner so that we can continue to promote the spirit of competition and engage more people into the act of competing.
To put this into perspective we need to look no further than comparing the Olympic Games to the Special Olympics. In the Olympic Games there is such a premium on going for the gold and defeating your competitors that we encourage cheating and immoral tactics so that someone can be defined as the winner. In the Special Olympics we promote exceptional effort while continuing to recognize Gold, Silver, and Bronze as supreme achievement, but not the definition of a winner. As far as I know there has never been a cheating scandal in the Special Olympics and there is no need for drug testing at those games. In fact I encourage you to go to your local Special Olympics and look at the faces of the athletes after the events and tell me who won or lost; everyone has a smile of victory on their faces.
Winning is one area in life where we can have the best of both worlds, meaning we can recognize one individual as the best while fostering healthy competition in those who do not come in first by allowing them to continue to focus on arrival through great effort. In order to do so we need to not trick everyone into feeling good by putting a medal around their neck, but to get them to know that in order to win in life it takes effort beyond what you originally thought was possible.
The spirit of “winning” is dependant on individual effort directed towards an internal destination. If we can get there, then we will realize exactly what Herm Edwards was talking about when he said “you play to win the game”.