Musings on Winning

Everyone has a degree of competitiveness. Some are more competitive than others, and people can be competitive about different things. But everyone has some degree of competitiveness, because winning triggers the reward sensation. We like to win, whatever winning means to each of us.

When it comes to competition, the most important question is how serious to take the game. Some should be taken quite seriously, but most should be put in the proper perspective. When UCLA Bruin’s football coach Henry Sanders said, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing,” he did a great disservice to the nature of competition. Winning is not everything. It’s about the reward of playing the game.

My grandson is starting to play chess. When we meet online to play a game, the question is whether I should let him win. Some say yes because he is a beginner. Others say, no way! Chess is a serious game, and letting an opponent win is bad form. There is no reward for winning if it is not earned. So I try to keep it fun for him to play, and encouraging, even when he loses. Not only does it teach him to work hard and practice to win, it also teaches him it is OK to lose. 

Those who believe that winning is everything are setting themselves up for a lot of unhappiness, because no one wins all the time. Everyone should practice the art of losing every once in a while. 

In the words of sportswriter Grantland Rice, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

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"How do I choose flavors? I really don’t know. I started off with apricot because I like apricots. Then it becomes a game to see what other fruits would work. My wife likes strawberries, so I did some strawberry. It just comes to me."

HARVEY TANNENBAUM, ON PREFERENCES