Winner? Really? I Don’t Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

Hockey scoreboard showing one team ahead. Easy to determine the winner by counting goals, a detail that matters in hockey games.
The scoreboard shows a running count of goals scored. The team with the most goals at the end of the game wins. In life, scoring is not so simple. Photo: Kevin Kiester, Raleigh News and Observer, May, 2019

As a hockey fan, I’ve often reflected on a phrase I once heard from the coach of my favorite team. 

”Play the game the right way and the results will take care of themselves.”

Rod Brind’Amour, Head Coach, Carolina Hurricanes

Coach Brind’Amour wasn’t saying that his team would win every game. He was saying that by playing the right way, they would give themselves the opportunity to win every game. Playing the right way; being a good hockey team, is the consistent, incessant determination to apply effort to details that matter. This is why he expressed his confidence that if this focus remained fixed, positive results would follow.

Determining a win in an athletic event is much easier than determining a win in life. A team simply needs to outscore the other team. You can tally hockey goals or touchdowns. In life, who are you competing against? Your co-worker? Your family member? The neighbors? The ”others”? And how do you keep score? What do you measure?

Hey “Winner,” who is the competition?

Unless you are an athlete, the only person to compete against in life is yourself. (And even if you’re an athlete, you still need to compete against yourself).

The self you’re competing against is any iteration that is less than the best possible version. Any version you cannot unequivocally respect in every area, you should mercilessly thrash into oblivion. (Of course, this assumes the knowledge of what to respect. Character is a detail that matters. It counts higher than a bank account.)

And this is why the only winners in life are the ones who consistently, strategically apply their efforts to details that matter. They know what matters, and what is worth their finite time and energy.

People thinking themselves ”winners” solely because they’ve acquired some money, possessions, or any other thing that can be counted up and put on a spreadsheet, who are morally bankrupt, and mentally shallow, aren’t winners. Rather, they are jackasses.

Focusing on the wrong details, they spend their energy accumulating and fretting over countable things, when true wealth doesn’t fit on a balance sheet. In the end, the results will take care of themselves.

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