Wednesday, March 2, 2016

18. THE VALUE IN COMPETITION

Competition: the act or process of trying to get or win something (such as a prize or a higher level of success) that someone else is also trying to get or win. 
Love it – Hate it.  In the decades of time I’ve lived and loved on this planet, I have gone back and forth about the value of competition.  I’ve personally been on the winning end and the losing end.  I think all of us have.  Usually the winning end feels better. Duh. 

Early in my writing career I used to submit songs to competitions. Love – Hate. I’ve submitted the same song in the same competition in different years, and one year it got terrible reviews and the other it won the grand prize. Go figure. Actually, that particular experience was a good lesson for me.  So many competitions are subjective.  Most of life is subjective.  We respond to some random judge, whom we usually don’t even know, like their opinion is omnipotent. I’ve judged enough competitions to be able to soundly testify that results are stupid.  But competitions…the things themselves…are really not inherently evil.  In fact, I find value in them.  Something in us awakens when there is a prize to be had, including when the only prize is recognition. And that internal stirring has a lot of value.

I sit on the bleachers and cheer, rather obnoxiously at times, for the people I love, all the while watching them benefit from the competition.  Their bodies are exercising; their minds are challenged; they are learning how to cooperate, and develop social skills, and support others.  They learn how to lose, and how to win, and how to hurt and survive it.  Because competition is an eternal concept (it has to be, because of our divine gift of free agency) we might as well learn how to be graceful in it when we are young.

The hardest thing about competition, for me, has been watching people I love have to deal with it.  I’m afraid I have made too big a deal about winning through the years.  I can be overly exuberant.  Boy have I ached for my kids.  I’d rather have lost at some of the challenges they have had than to have seen them ache or think less of themselves or quit altogether when they really had talent.  Oh man, I have a pit in my stomach just thinking back.

On the other hand, they are all generally happy, functional, kind, intelligent, talented, giving adults, and all that competition of our past must have had something to do with it. Honestly, as I’m thinking about my beloved grand kids at this point, I’m thinking that I hope they all get a chance to really fail at something. I am quite serious about this.  They need to be able to fail while they are in the safety of their homes and families.  They need to have the chance to get through sadness and  find the courage to try again with the encouragement of their families. 

Last month Timo won in the regional Reflections contest with a composition he wrote.  He scored and performed it completely himself, tracking it on Garage Band on his dad’s computer.  I guarantee that composition would not exist but for that competition. And yesterday our Sophie won 3rd place in the school district science fair.  Her experiment involved Oreo cookies.  Her hypothesis was that Double Stuff Oreo's did not have exactly double the stuffing.  But after weighing and measuring, she proved herself wrong.  Now, seriously, would she have ever known the truth of the matter if she had not been given the opportunity to compete?



I remember one of Annie’s science fair projects was on the qualities of soap that make it valuable.  That’s when I learned about surfactants – when my last child was in sixth grade.  Now I think about Annie’s science fair project every single day when I get in the shower.  I know you might not believe that I am serious, but I think about the surfactant aspects of cleansing my skin every day.  Thanks, Annie!  Thanks science fair!

Dave and Libby have Fit Bits that they wear around their wrists.  The Fit Bit keeps track of the number of steps they take in a day. Sometimes they’ll call each other at 11:30 at night, asking “How many steps do you have?” And if they have less than their goal they will bundle up in the middle of the night in the middle of winter and go out walking so they can beat …well, honestly, I don’t know what they’re beating…maybe the clock, since the thing rolls back to zero at midnight… maybe  they’re beating the mediocre in themselves. They are definitely more fit than I am as I sit at home and click on the computer.

In the last decade, since our kids are grown, Dave has joined a golf league.  If his Tuesday court calendar allows, he rushes up to the golf course in Layton and joins his team.  It makes me happy that he has this outlet, and he is always considerate of me and our family plans - golf always comes second if necessary.  Today was the first round of the league, and when he came home I met him at the kitchen door.
“Hi!  How was it?” He had a nice happy smile as he kissed me.  “You must have had a good round?”
“Well, I did!” he said “I got a hole in one!”

Getting a hole in one on the golf course has not been anything I have ever heard Dave say he aspired to.  But by golly it was sure a fun consequence of his weekly competition!  And I am so happy for him.  He would be the first to tell you it’s not anything of eternal consequence… but it sure is fun.

Competition. Love it or hate it.  But it has its value. The prospect of winning is motivating. And there are great things to be learned in losing as well. If we fear losing, we will miss some amazing opportunities.  So my hope for all the people I love, including myself, is that we get the chance to lose now and again. And, of course, the chance to win.
WooHoo!




3 comments:

  1. Yay Pop! And Timo! And Sophie! And Libby! And 6th grade Annie!

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  2. Cori you are a natural winner...remember winning that tv counting the cherries? But the best thing is that you are a cheerleader for all of us...you cheer us on in life!! Thank you for that...it makes us always want to share our wins and our losses...because you are there cheering us all on. Thank you!!

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  3. I spent many hours playing ping pong with my Dad. The plan was to improve enough to finally beat him!! It never happened, but thankfully that competitive side of me was the spark that led to many fun moments together.

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