Lessons from a Loser

I live in Chicago. And the Blackhawks recently won the Stanley Cup. When you live in a sports town, the mood of the city is completely determined by how well its teams do. Which explains why New York and Boston generally have a lot of self-confidence--they regularly win championships. So naturally, Chicagoans are pretty proud right now. I guess it helps dull the pain that the Cub's World Series commemorative shirt is just a plain white t-shirt.

Yes, there are plenty of other cities with worse teams overall, but few sports franchises have been the butt of "loser" jokes like the Chicago Cubs. At least Robert Zemeckis thought so almost 25 years ago. In our culture, losers are the lowest of the low. Downright worthless. But seeing that I've been down here for a while, I have to say, it's not all that bad.

Some people are really driven. They know what they want, and they'll do whatever is needed to get it. Even at the expense of others, they will succeed. Or simply, they will win. This means that, by necessity, others will have to lose.

photo credit: Out.of.Focus via photopin cc
It's a fairly black and white principle, and it's largely how our world operates. Two teams can't win the Stanley Cup. Two people can't get the promotion when only one is available. And in an argument, only one person can be right.

I get that.

And there's a reasonable amount of criticism against millennials for trying to ignore this. However, if you've been a loser long enough, you learn eventually that some things are more important than winning.

It sounds like a cop out, I know. Cause let's face it, no one enjoys losing. But just for fun, try applying that to a discussion you're having with a friend about favorite sports teams, or musical artists, or political ideals.

Personal preferences soon decay into objective standards of athleticism, aesthetics, and ethics. Why? Because we hold our convictions for a reason. And in a win/lose culture where both can't be right, any acquiescence puts our values and self-worth in jeopardy. In other words, if we lose, we lose.

Imagine now if we were to reset our objective in colloquial discourse. What if the goal of an argument or debate wasn't winning, but learning? What if we were less concerned about proving ourselves right, and more concerned about understanding another's values?

If no one needs to win or lose, then no one's worth needs to be left wanting. This ought to make us at least more discerning of whether winning is truly beneficial, or purely destructive. Because while winning has its place, it can have unfortunate consequences when applied in the wrong places.