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Let’s focus on being first when it actually matters.

“If you are first, you are first. If you are second, you are nothing.” – W. Shankly

It was during a timeout during our seventh-grade basketball game.

With just seconds left in the game, we were down by a single point and had possession of the ball. Coach drew up the plan, looked into the eyes of the five boys about to take the court and empathically shared, “Gentleman, this is your chance. This is your moment to win. Remember, there are no points for second place!”

Then, looking each of us in our eyes one more time, Coach repeated more adamantly: “No points for second place!”

We took the court. Attempted the play. The final horn sounded. And moments later we came back to the bench, heads hung low, defeated. We failed in our quest for victory. We missed our chance. There were no points for these second-place losers!

Now, my friends, I don’t fault that coach for pushing us to strive for greatness. I believe in keeping score and don’t believe every team deserves a ribbon for showing up. Competition is a gift that can benefit entire societies, drive value organizationally and empower individuals to become far better versions of themselves.

But here’s the catch: the ambition to always win comes with the cost of believing that this relationship, or this business, or this basketball game, or this life is merely about our needs, our goals, our scoreboards.

St. Francis of Assisi reminds us somewhat paradoxically that it is in giving that we receive. Therefore, for more meaningful victories, our focus must shift from how we can use our gifts for our success to instead how our lives can be used to positively impact others.

So, with time still on the clock, let’s gather around and draw up a new game plan.

Let’s strive to put others first. Let’s listen for their needs and empower them to live up to the fullness of their lives. Let’s be the first to say “good morning” or “I love you” or “I am sorry.” Let’s listen to the perspectives of others we previously ignored. Let’s be first to show up, to be present, to not judge, and to give fully.

Let’s realize that one person can indeed change the world and you saw their reflection in the mirror this morning.

Regardless what the scoreboard shows as time expires, if we do these things well, we can hold our heads high and confidently skip back to the bench, certain we fought the good fight, loved others wholeheartedly and were truly victorious at what matters.

While there may be no points for second place, the ultimate victory we’re striving to secure demands multiplying our talents in service to others and doesn’t keep score.

Now that’s a game worth playing. And a victory worthy of celebrating.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

5 replies on “It’s Not Always About Winning”

The act of giving forgiveness to the gal who caused the accident that killed my son gave me more healing than I could have ever imagined.

Leaders in-power, without shame, bullying or disgrace. We aspire to greatness by example, and John, over and over again, you have been an inspiration to our family.

If only organizations rewarded leaders for cooperation instead of “winning at all costs” the climate of the workplace would be less ruthless, and profits may soar.

Along with You John. My Dad pointed to a sign in St Vincent de Paul ‘s Gym in the 60s. When the Great Scorer comes to write next to your name, He’ll write not whether you won or lost But how you played the Game.
My sentiments exactly. God bless you & Thank You Always for your Living Inspired 🕊💗

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Live Inspired Together is a community of friends changing the world together, starting with their own. In a world that often focuses on negativity, John O’Leary - Live Inspired shares the other side of the story through his member-supported channels (essays, Live Inspired Podcast, video, webcasts, social platforms) to connect our community and share inspiration and actions to live it. Support now.