Friday, August 10, 2007

What is a “Winner?”

It is safe to assume that most people like to think of themselves and have others think of them as a “winner” – nobody wants to be a loser. Nonetheless, let’s pause for a moment and think about what it means to be a “winner.”

According to Definitions on the Web, a “winner” is: (1) the contestant who wins the contest; (2) a gambler who wins a bet; and (3) an achiever: a person with a record of successes; “his son would never be the achiever that his father was”; “only winners need apply”; “if you want to be a success you have to dress like a success.” In the broader scheme of life, however, the concept of “being a winner” connotes and involves more than just those definitions above. For example, in his on-line article, “Learn How to Be a Winner, Not a Whiner,” Gary Simpson, says, “How do you want to be known and remembered? As a person who took the reins of life and charged full-tilt ahead? – a person of action and vitality that wins more often than they lose? Or, as a person who prefers to tip-toe through life trying not to be noticed? – a whiner and complainer who just wants to be left alone.”

Throughout my life, I personally have been challenged by a physical disability yet played college basketball and still actively participate in sports – for example, I pitch on two softball teams. Nonetheless, when I think of the phenomenon, “winner,” I immediately think about the ten elite disabled athletes I feature in my pop-psych book, Ultimate Challenges: After the Fall. The first of the ten I think of is an incredible lady – Bonnie St. John Dean. At the age of twenty, after snow skiing for only four years, successive achievements in local and national competitions propelled Bonnie to the highest level – a place on the United States Paralympic Snow Skiing Team. At the 1984 Winter Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria, Bonnie won a Bronze Medal in the Slalom and a Bronze Medal in the Giant Slalom, and placed 7th in the Downhill – all of which won her a Silver Medal in the Overall, thereby defining her as the second fastest woman in the world on one ski.

Bonnie’s inclusion in my book also was because she embodies the implied message in the book’s subtitle – it’s what you do “after the fall” that matters, figuratively speaking. For example, in an interview, Bonnie recently said, “When you start out life black, female, low-income, and sexually abused, then you have your leg cut off, life seems like it’s always hard.”

The first paragraph of the “Epilogue” of Ultimate Challenges: After the Fall addresses the above suggested notions regarding what a winner is and encapsulates my feelings about Bonnie:

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A major theme throughout this book is that within the existence and essence of these athletes’ lives there are important messages, words of wisdom, from which we all can learn. For example, healthy perseverance, “not giving up and learning from experience,” is sine qua non to these elite athletes. When Bonnie St. John Deane was in a Slalom final, she learned a pivotal lesson in life. About three quarters through her final run, Bonnie fell, but got up and finished third. Later she found out that first place went to a fellow competitor who also had fallen and got up to finish:

I realized that winners aren’t people who don’t make mistakes – they’re people who get up. And gold medal winners are the people who get up the fastest.

These athletes may not win every time, but you can bet that their persistence, tenacity and perseverance, will assure that they’ll be back. Life has its ups and downs. We all have good days and bad days. We all know that at one time or another life can hand us a dirty deal. At one time or another, we will fall. But as Bonnie so rivetingly demonstrates, it’s not the fall that counts– it’s what we do after the fall. Do we lay there and whine? Do we quit? Do we act like losers? Or, do we get up as fast as we can, as winners? (p. 109)

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Question: Is there anyone special who you have known who you would consider a “winner?”



Susan Hatler said...

I've thought about your post and who is a "winner" and to me, a "winner" isn't determined by the end result. Misa Ramirez posted a blog on her website about the Energizer Bunny cuz she keeps going and going, working toward her goal of becoming a published author. Now, I think she's a winner even though she hasn't achieved her goal (yet). But, I think that going after what you want and the journey that encompasses can make a person a "winner", despite the end result. But, then again, I'm not a dictionary :)

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Susan,
Thanks for stopping by and offering an excellent Comment. My sense is that your considerations may reveal some of your learning when in school (B.A. in Philosophy from Cal State Hayward – well done!). The combination of Phenomenology Existentialism inherent in your notion regarding what a “winner” is, also is supportive of a healthy self-concept and a healthy lifestyle (as I sense Misa believes – “Why do I need someone else’s approval and liking of what I do in order to feel like an accomplished person.”)
I vividly recall when I completed my first novel, I said to my son, “Thanks for the ‘Congratulations,’ but even though I’ve published numerous textbooks, pop-psych and self-help books, I don’t have a publisher yet.” To wit he quickly replied, “Dad, you can call yourself a novelist – you finished the novel. I read it and it’s good – and just because a publisher has yet to appreciate it is irrelevant.” That was so heart-warming to hear.
You may not be a dictionary, Susan, but in my view you are an insightful person!
Thanks again,

Misa said...

Wow, Susan, thank you for the compliment. I think any of us that pursue our dreams are winners, even through the ups and downs. And to answer the question, Bill, I'd say that my son, Sam, is a winner. He's tackled a life altering disease head on, takes full responsibility for managing it, and does so with a positive attitude. He hasn't let it color his world or his outlook. And now, faced with a second, even more life changing disease, he's still positive. I admire him and am constantly amazed by his inner strength, self-confidence, and determination to live a good life.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Misa… thanks for stopping by!
You indeed are most deserving of Susan’s compliment.
I appreciate your proudly sharing your son’s valiant experiences. He most certainly seems to be the kind of “winner in life” we all admire. With all due respect to his admirable way of dealing with life’s speed bumps, I have a pretty good idea as to where and from whom he learned that from!
With all best wishes to you and your son,

Misa said...

Thanks, Bill! My husband and I try hard, but we're also realists and know that our influence only goes so far. Being a family is a full time affair full of give and take. This was a great blog post, as it made me think and really appreciate our boy and his life view.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi again Misa,
While I truly appreciate your gracious comment regarding the Post, my heart goes out to you, your husband and your family. I also suggest that a key ingredient to a happy and healthy family is in your Comment -- "full of give and take." I know many parents that are so full of themselves that they think all wisdom goes one way: from them to their children. I can't begin to tell you how much I have learned from my three!
Thanks again, Misa.
With all best wishes and regards to you and your family,