27 May 2009

Sometimes winning really ISN'T everything

I'm pretty competitive. Actually, that's a bit dishonest. I'm really competitive. But I have a different barometer of success than most people do. Most people really revel in the victory, and enjoy winning at the core of all things competitive. I don't really have that gene. Winning is nice, but the only reason, in my mind, that it's nice, is because the, alternative is losing. I can not think of anything in the world at all, I hate more than losing. I remember being a high school debater, and wanting to win so badly that it seemed that nothing else really mattered to me. It absolutely consumed me, and every decision I made for 3 years revolved around whether that decision would help me win more debates. I had a really good career, by the numbers, but remember being so disappointed with the results of my final national tournament that i essentially walked away from the activity, with no intent of returning (for those that understand how the NFL tournament functions, i lost the 13th round for my second loss)...

...it was not until years later, when i was enrolled at Diablo Valley College (some of you foolios are too young to remember, back in the day, you could defer your student loans with merely one unit, it was cheap to enroll in a single community college class, and i didn't have to worry about the grace period of my loan- clearly they saw through this sham later, and have since corrected this). I happened to take a public speaking class (figuring it would be an easy "A", and it was). They had a debate unit in the class, and somewhere during the unit, the teacher figured I may have debated, so he asked if i wanted to join the team. I turned him down, and told him why I hated the activity. he told me some words that convinced me to get back into debate, and to that i am thankful.

"you clearly love debate. but if you put all the value in wins and losses, you risk finding yourself debating not for love, but for wins. When that happens, quit. Wins stop when you quit, and if that's what gives you value, what happens when you stop debating?"

I took those words to heart and it fundamentally changed the way i value the activity, and it increased my quality of life across the board...it taught me to find the value in the quest, and to recognize that winning is awesome and cool and fun, but not the base of your value. it allows me to be really competitive, but to really enjoy a good battle, and although I don't like losing, the recognition that losing has value, even if the value is only how to avoid losing.

this is even a topic of discussion because i found myself playing the role of mentor again, with one of my debaters....let me provide some background information...We just returned from the National Catholic Forensics League Grand National Tournament. Out of the 125 teams at the tournament, this student placed in the top eight, losing in the quarterfinals to the eventual champion (a team that was the top seed, winning 15 of 15 ballots, and a quarterfinalist at the Tournament of Champions, so this team is no sloutch). He was also debating with someone he had not debated with all year (for those of you that play ANY two person sport, imagine replacing your normal partner and having to perform with no practice, this would be equally difficult). Nevertheless, he was unhappy with his performance, so much so he seemed to not be gaining any pleasure from the incredible accomplishment (if you doubt that, think of the last time you were in the top 8 in the nation, and then imagine being fully unsatisfied). Watching him brought me back to that time, when i was his age, and that was all I cared about. It also brought me back to all the bitterness I had for the activity, and how it bummed me out when I lost in late elimination rounds at tournaments, up to the point where i didn't even enjoy tournaments unless I won them (which I didn't do anywhere near enough to have been as bitter as I was about not winning them) and to the point where I just had to walk away and learn a new way to re-evaluate the way i looked at the activity. I had to pull my debater aside, and tell him my story. His response, which is pretty much everyone's response when i tell them this story was "you quit debate for almost 3 years?" most people that know me can't imagine me quitting debate. but when you tie everything to wins, and not just wins, but all the wins and the final win, when you fail to get that final win, you fail, period. i don't know anyone that would continue doing something that always has a negative result, as it is prone to if perfection is your standard (for example, I've debated at a tournament, won the tournament and was still not happy becasue i made fixable mistakes in all the debates).

I hope my words got through to him. It seems ludicrous someone could win 86% of their debates and not think of themselves as a winner, and that such a positive result could be frowned upon makes me sad.

1 comment:

  1. is this the same Doug I went to high school with, the guy with the limericks and haiku that was patently offensive? who knew...