How to Win Twice

21 Jan

Recently coming back from Jeux du Commerce 2011, I had a reflection on what is truly « winning ». My team and I were lucky enough to get on the podium twice for debate and with the whole delegation in this amazing moment where they announced us as first place overall. In fact, most of the teams had this chance, our school was practically called on the podium for every discipline. Winning gold as a delegation felt great, no doubt about that. I also understand how beneficial it is to the reputation of the faculty and how it is rewarding for the enormous amount of work that was put into this journey. In this blog, I’ll do my best to explain my views on how a different attitude towards winning could make you win twice: Once on fully satisfying and lasting level (inner self) and once on a momentary, short and very intense level: getting the trophy.

So, at JDC, we won gold overall, it’s crazy! But what if we didn’t get it? What if we finished fourth, fifth? Many people would have been extremely sad even though their performances would have been the same, even though everyone gave it their best shot. Getting on the podium is a bonus, but it should never be the focus. We must stay focus on our actions now, in the present moment, living our ambitions now, with passion and dedication, without getting hypnotized by results and craving external approbation. What gets you on the podium is often much too subjective and uncontrollable that one won’t be satisfied if winning is defined by external approval, we must act as winners, we must know we have won already, way before any results are given, we must not wait for them to tell us how good we are, we must know it. This attitude will bring you happiness and often enough I truly think it is also what gets you the podium.

I am very much competitive myself and it is true even though ranking is not my focus. My competitiveness doesn’t translate itself into dying to get on the podium. I might have expressed my ambitions by saying I wanted to win gold but at every gala I realized this wasn’t the key to my inner satisfaction, I realized my passion was truly competing and I was actually sad knowing the experience was over. I want to win by doing the best performance possible and by having fun while performing. If we please the audience, the other team congratulates us, people we don’t know coming up to say they enjoyed watching the presentation, we have a blast while we debate, if people smile and laugh when we talk, we won, boom, it’s done. That’s what I truly want. And being competitive partly explains why I enjoy debate competitions so much: you can look at your opponent’s eyes, you get energized by this back and forth intellectual battle, this process of making the best case for your position. And seriously, this time (jdc2011), we did gave everything we had to this competition, we had fun and I miss it already, a lot. Knowing that, to me, we had already won, whatever the results were. We finished 3rd and it was a good bonus, I was really proud of the first 2 teams, they totally deserved it. Would have I cried getting 4th position? Not at all, « too bad » would have I said, because losing by a few percentile points is not reflective in any manner of the quality of our performances. Actually, we won gold in debate last year and  I personally feel prouder of my performance this year: I was more confident, I had more experience, I was « more present », more able to fully enjoy the experience. The rest is all uncontrollable, external factors on which I can’t lose my energies on.

Judges are very subjective, just as we are in our everyday life. We don’t know them personally, we don’t know what they would have liked to ear, they had expectations just as every human would, they had an answer in mind before you tried answering the question, they are just not robots. Maybe one of them is into environmental causes and one sentence about carbon credits would have got you on the podium, maybe the language you spoke wasn’t so comprehensible to them, maybe they aren’t morning persons and you had to present before the sun got up, maybe you were too smart and they felt stupid not understanding the information you presented, maybe a lot of things that have nothing to do with how good we are. So many great achievers of our time were deceived in their lives, they « lost » so many times, « failure is part of success » and look at where they are now (Steve Jobs getting fired of Apple for example, Beyond the Rack getting turned down by investors and now 50M$ is sales), did they loose or did they just not match judges/investors/customers expectations at one point out of an infinity of points? So basically, practice and the understanding the key formulas to please the judges seems to be the biggest components of « winning » academic competitions but it does not  mean in any ways that as individuals we are superior to the ones who « lost ». They « loose » based on only one set of criterion and one set of judges, with other decision factors you might just have been the one clapping for them when they get on the stage.

We were lucky to hit the spot this time. Our school has cracked the code for a while now through practice, coaching…But in other competitions we weren’t always that lucky. And it was sometimes devastating for some people. After all the hard work that we put into this, hoping to « win », I can understand that an emotional bubble bursts and that letting go a few tears is very much normal in this case. I have seen people destroyed by not getting on the podium even though we had chills when they presented and everything they said was so clever, congratulating them for their amazing presentation (to me, this is winning, right there). I therefore feel so much compassion for them thinking they maybe defined how good they truly did by a number, a position that is defined in such a subjective manner. Ultimately, grading sheets are a support, but in the end it’s all about the intangible human contact that is made and the fit that was created between judge’s unknown and personal expectations and what your instincts whispered you as an answer to the case. I am not saying it is all about luck, preparation, passion and effort undoubtedly and dramatically increase the probability of you getting on the podium, but if you don’t, don’t question the efforts you have put into it if it was your 200%. You can not control the uncontrollable (subjectivity and personal expectations of the judges) and for another set of judges you may just have gotten on that podium! You did not fail, you just did not match this one set of decision factors and there are many in the world. And for the ones who get on the podium, that is great and I hope they felt as winners even before they received the trophy.

The quality of our performance (seen from an objective point of view)  is a result of the work we put into it, not the pressure we put on ourselves getting 1st, 2nd or 3rd. So the focus should always be placed on the work we do in the present moment and then we let ourselves be happily surprised if we do get on that podium. If we don’t, we must realize we were not lucky enough to hit the spot, to express the answers to their interrogations in the way they wished to ear it on this day. Because think about it, let’s say a team didn’t give their best effort at it but they were lucky to say exactly what fitted with the judges personal inclinations and expectations. And let’s add that other teams this year weren’t agile presenting their case. They win. Do they, really? You only win when getting on the podium? This must be the technical definition in academic competitions, creating fit with judge’s expectations and academic standards. But to me, in life, man… Winning must be feeling great about your performance, knowing and feeling that you are a winner because fun and passion are the greatest and most precious prizes of all. It sounds cheesy but it’s true. And if you think my position on winning is not the right one well I have got on the podium 4 times out of the 4 competitions that I have been to and not once did I cared about the podium, it was just a really sweet cherry on top and I felt proud of contributing to the reputation of my school. But the cake was definitely the bonding with my team, the passion I had while competing and knowing we’ve done everything in our power to exceed our personal expectations and judge’s expectations, whatever they were. We all know that judging is not an exact science and that sometimes it can be or feel unfair. I won’t let anyone make me think I wasn’t good for a few points and I won’t wait for anyone’s approval. Waiting for external approval leads to unhappiness because it becomes a drug, a drug of which we’ll never have enough and we’ll never be satisfied living this way. We’ll always want more even though we have so much in our hands now. We’ll always think tomorrow will  be better while everything we’ll ever have is the present moment, we will never touch this future, it will never be, we will always be craving something (read « The Power of Now ».) The day after this intense external gratification we’ll get depressed and be in such a « down » period because we’ll always need more of it because we weren’t able to see it shine inside of us. A never-ending process in which no one can find lasting satisfaction. By being fully present and following our passions no matter what people say it is, yes, I truly think we can be fully satisfied while still having very ambitious objectives. This attitude makes you win twice: Once on fully satisfying  and lasting level (inner self) and once on a momentary, short and very intense level, getting the trophy.

Know that you deserve the job before they tell you you got it or not, know you’re beautiful before the guy tells you are and all of a sudden, you will win the most incredible prices of all: happiness, harmony and inner peace. From these solid foundations will arise external accomplishments such as getting on the podium, getting the job and getting the boyfriend or girlfriend you know you deserve, not what only is approving you. It’s almost a magical process. Test it. It is not always easy to apply and I am not saying I always apply it at all but it is necessary to have some kind of a cogitation about what makes us feel as winners: feeling you are acting at the absolute best of your aptitudes and having a blast while doing it or waiting for a subjective being to tell you he agrees with your answers?

In sum, never let anyone make you feels you have lost if you gave it your all and were passionate while competing or doing anything in life with this fire in your eyes. Because I think being passionate and focused during your performance must be the definition of winning and the only one that leads to true lasting satisfaction. And, as a bonus, this attitude might make you stand on that podium holding a trophy. On the other hand, you’ll feel great too even if you don’t get there this time with this one set of criterion out of a myriad of chances you have in front of you. The podium is a bonus and how we perform in the present moment should always remain the focus, always.

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