Is Losing Good for You?
PROGRAM ALERT: The Halloween edition of Career Changers TV will premiere Sat., Oct. 5 at 8:30 PM on OC16 with new segments on the Hawaii Pirate Ship Adventures cruises and a real life mermaid/business entrepreneur, as well as a Honolulu costume shop where you can rent customized outfits for any occasion. For daily viewing times, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV or watch segments on the CCTV YouTube Channel... but you really should see the great underwater mermaid footage on widescreen high-def television!
The "losing" question in the headline is a reference to a recent N.Y. Times op-ed piece titled "Losing Is Good for You," which was written by Ashley Merryman. It just so happens we featured her on my September CCTV show, which you can still see on the OC16.TV website. That segment is also posted on YouTube (click here). In it, she talks about her journey to the top of the NYT Bestsellers list as co-author of the book, NurtureShock. I got to interview her at the American Psychological Association convention in August, where she was scouting topics for future books and magazine pieces. She has also been promoting her latest collaboration with Po Bronson, Top Dog - The Science of Winning and Losing. Like NurtureShock, it's a thought-provoking collection of research that challenges conventional wisdom and will make you reassess your own assumptions as related to parenting, coaching and business strategies. Ashley sent me a copy before she arrived in Hawaii, and I highly recommend it to anyone seeking a competitive edge.
Her op-ed piece deals with the "everybody is a winner" mentality that has become popular among parents in the last generation or two. The idea was that telling kids there are no "losers" in sports or group activities is good for their self-esteem. But is it really? Or does it just set them up for frustration and disappointment when they experience losing or failure in real life? I remember my brother telling me how his young girls played in a soccer league that didn't count wins/losses or scores. Huh? Where's the fun in that! Moreover, having played in sandlot games as a kid, then moving on to high school football and track, I can honestly say I learned a lot about life from losing. The most important lesson was that when my team or I lost, you had a choice: give up and quit... or get over it and play better the next time you got the chance to show what you were made of.
Ashley's op-ed also got skewered by Stephen Colbert on his Comedy Channel show Monday night. He chided her for putting down trophies and awards... then hoisted his two Emmy trophies from under his desk and flashed his trademark smirk. (Truth be told, the Colbert Report deserved to beat out the Daily Show, which has become increasingly juvenile and reliant on penis/vagina jokes.)
I've been thinking a lot about losing in the past few weeks. I mentioned in this blog I was a quarterfinalist in the prestigious Academy Foundation Nicholl Fellowships this year, placing my feature screenplay in the top 5 percent of 7,251 scripts submitted from writers all over the world. Last month, I got the news that I didn't advance to the next round. Then I received two more "loser" notifications that I wasn't selected for other screenwriting programs I applied to that I felt I had a good shot at. It hurt like hell. But having lost many, many times before in various sports and writing competitions, I realized that losing out on those programs meant I actually had more time to prove the judges wrong. I don't need their stamp of approval or more trophies and certificates of achievement to put on my wall. What I need to do is sit down and write a better screenplay.
The value of sports hit me full force last Saturday night while I was sitting in Aloha Stadium, contemplating an early exit since the UH football team was down 41-3. Frankly, they looked awful. Streams of students and younger fans were already heading back out to party in the parking lot when Coach Chow made a change at quarterback. Former starter, Sean Schroeder, who was demoted after enduring dozens of sacks and hard slams to the turf last season, trotted onto the field... and despite all the armchair quarterbacks and critics who said he can't throw deep or quickly enough, he led them to an immediate score. A funny thing happened though. I didn't cheer. I wasn't that excited. It was now 41-10. The mountain was too high to climb. Far too little, too late. Besides, after my recent losses -- failures -- why get my hopes up for a comeback that was unlikely to occur?
Yet my wife was standing and cheering. There were other fans on their feet too -- mostly older ladies, who didn't seem to understand that no team could come back from a 41-3 deficit and win with a little over one quarter remaining. But someone forgot to tell the players it was a futile battle. The defense began making big plays and out-hustled Fresno State for every ball that was in the air or on the ground. Schroeder kept putting the ball in places only his receivers could catch -- the same guys who had a bad case of the dropsies in prior games, made terrific grabs. Somehow, someway the score closed to 41-37 and Hawaii had the ball with time on the clock to win the game. They came up short. Had I left when things looked hopeless, I would have missed one of the most amazing comebacks in UH football... heck, any football game ever.
It took me back to another UH game long ago against the vaunted Notre Dame Fighting Irish, when Lou Holtz was coaching them in 1991. Under Coach Bob Wagner, the Bows made a valiant comeback. Michael Carter played with a painful rib injury. Ivin Jasper, the back-up QB also got into the mix, and Aloha Stadium was rocking as they pulled closer and closer. Notre Dame held on to win 48-42, but no one left feeling like UH lost. They just ran out of time. And that was the sentiment last Saturday.
The following season after that loss to Notre Dame, the Bows won the WAC and the 1992 Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Sometimes, losing reminds you that life is about persevering when everyone else around you has already given up. If you're a true UH football fan, come out to the game Saturday night. It's not just about winning.