Success, failure both learning experiences

When Winners Lose

My father tells of a college professor he had at Wake Forest who introduced the semester with a lecture on his grade philosophy.

“Each of you will seek your own level in this class,” he said. “If you are an A student, you may get an occasional B or C, but eventually you will return to your own level and get an A for the course. The same is true for a C student. You may ace an exam or two, but ultimately a C will be your grade.”

I thought about that story recently as I watched the Super Bowl and the pregame interviews. The contrast in the quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Cam Newton, was striking. The media did their job setting up the dramatic conflict, pitting experience versus youth, classic tradition versus uncompromising flamboyance.

Flamboyance was heavily favored.

Each wanted to ace this test. Each wanted to win. Both were seeking their own level.

Experience prevailed this time. And Flamboyance wasn’t happy about it.

But are we ever? Do we ever like to lose?

The truth is that life is about losing and winning and all the struggles in between. We can’t win all the time; it’s just not possible.

I love what I overheard at a wrestling match years ago. One of my son’s teammates was behind in the score. His mom was reminding his 9-year-old little sister to pay attention to her brother’s match.

“But, Mom,” she cried. “He’s losing!”

“Oh no, honey,” the mother corrected. “He’s not losing, he’s learning.” And so he did. As the day progressed, so did his experience, skills and success on the mat.

Losing seasons us. It prepares us for the unknown. It steels us for the bumps ahead.

So, I cringed when I read Cam’s remarks:

“Who likes to lose? You show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”

Bless his heart.

Darlin’ Cam, we all lose. Some more than others. The important thing is to keep seeking our level — despite our losses.

Kipling, in his poem, “IF,” defines the struggle and challenges us even more:

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

“And treat those two Impostors just the same”

“Triumph” and “Disaster” as entities in and of themselves (note the capitalization) are false destinations, imposters. They are merely stops along the way as we seek our own level.

At our best, we should strive to treat them the same. Revere them. Learn from them. Treat them as part of the process.

Despite all the criticism, I see Cam as a winner, an A player with extraordinary talent and drive. I look forward to watching his journey as he seeks his own level.

As Winston Churchill reminds us, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Rebecca Faye Smith Galli is the daughter of the late Dr. R.F. Smith Jr., a longtime columnist for The Herald-Dispatch

Published 2/21/16 The Herald Dispatch

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