History, Opinions, Writing

Winners and Losers. The Intellectual Cost of Labels

The word’s “win” and “lose” frustrate me.  They are a leash about our necks, restraining us from any forward momentum. These two verbs do more to hinder the intellectual growth of humanity than most people would ever imagine.

Pause for a moment and think about that.  Those two words are at the core of how we define ourselves; am I a winner or a loser?  Examples of both abound; “Winner’s want the ball”, “let’s put a check in the win column” and “this is a win-win situation”.  Alternatively, we have “losers never win”, “it’s a lose-lose situation” and it’s bad to “lose your mind, the game or your cool”.  This is what we have been taught, this is what we know and this is how we live.  Winners and Losers.

But, is it really that simple?  Are we so shallow as to think that because our side won, that we are a “winner” and that the opposition is a “loser”?  We seem to do it every day, so yes, we are unfortunately that shallow.  This is where we need to change, to grow.  I suggest to you that those two words are so incredibly inaccurate and restrictive to our thinking and self-worth, that they should be relegated to where they belong, in the land of the spoken obsolete.  Think, Jalopy, Comely and Dastardly.  Old, unused words from our past.

We need to replace those two words with the question, “what did you learn?”; not did you win or lose, which grossly  oversimplifies the emotional outcome of an event. To use “these” two words is to deny an incredible opportunity for intellectual growth.  Imagine you’re at a soccer game in which your child’s team scored less than the other.  Your child says “we lost” as the other team loudly celebrates their victory.  You say “No, you didn’t lose, you just scored less today so let’s talk about what you’ve learned” and a discussion follows, hopefully about the value of perseverance, sports tactics and methods of self improvement to reach their goals.  To the child who “won”, a conversation desperately needs to occur regarding the value of humility, perseverance, sports tactics and methods to continue being successful in their endeavors.

…Or we can take the winner out for ice cream and the loser home to sulk until the next soccer game.

I would like to think that we all know better but being “us” we continue to ignore the obvious; that labels are terribly detrimental and restrictive to our social and intellectual evolution.  We are ridiculously quick to label.  Can you imagine a football team that played 500 games, failing 499 times before finally prevailing?  How would we describe the team?  They’re Losers.  Yet Thomas Edison failed at least 1000 times before getting it right and ultimately creating a working light bulb.  He’s a winner.  Ironically, most successful people have lost far more times than they ever won.  They “showed up”, dug their heels in and never stopped trying.

So did Trump “really” win the election?  Did the democratic party “really” lose? I suggest that nobody won, based on today’s gridlock, in the election.  I’m sure that both sides are asking themselves “what did we learn, what could have been done differently?” I’m certain the democratic party is “learning” from the event.  Thinking deeper, did we really win World War II and lose in Vietnam?  Does it matter? Or did we learn.  I hope we are beyond winning and losing and focusing on the lessons of history and the tragic loss of human life.  When you use the words “win” and “lose” it’s like putting a period at the end of a sentence.  It signifies the end of a thought.  Period.

How we “define” ourselves is essential.  These two verbs fall far short of any useful means of describing what we, our children and humanity are truly capable of.  We need to stop with the labels and start looking deeper ie: intelligent conversation about issues that are important, whatever they may be.  It’s here that we will begin to finally grow, to learn, to become ultimately more than winners and losers.

Note: This article had some passionate comments which I felt required clarification.  The next article addresses this “Winners and Losers, did I miss the mark”  Thank you, Michael