So I'm watching Top Chef, as one does after a good day's writing and cleaning house. There are only a few contestants left at this point, and more than once I hear them express the idea that to come this far and lose now would be a waste, not good enough, unacceptable. And I imagine we'll hear similar sentiments at the upcoming Olympics about silver medals not being good enough; it's the gold or nothing.
I always think: what nonsense. So few people ever reach these levels of
quality, and the hairs that are split to separate first from second
from third place are often very fine indeed. In certain sports, it comes
down to a hundredth of a second: a twitch, an eyelash flutter.
Most of us are not going to be the grand-prize winners at whatever we do. Should we give up, then?
good to be good; it's excellent to be excellent. The effort we put into
improving changes us, gives us (and others) something. Pursuing a goal
takes us somewhere, takes us farther than we might have gone without it,
even if we never reach that goal.
At the Olympics, they also
bandy about the Pierre de Coubertin quote, "The most important thing in
the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in
life is not conquering but fighting well." This is the kind of saying a
lot of people give lip service to, but secretly believe that in real
life, things are different.
But in real life, it is the
taking part that matters. "First place or nothing" would leave an awful
lot of people settling for nothing ... people who could have so much