In recent times, the concept of participation has become more important than winning in many cases. You see, to have a winner means that we also have to have a loser. Since we don’t want anyone to be labeled a loser, we allow everyone to win a Participation Ribbon. I come from a time where you were encouraged to win, but you also learned how to lose. Losing was not the end of the world and the sun would still come up tomorrow and you learned to deal with it. In fact, by losing you actually knew your weaknesses and worked to improve so that you might prevent losing in the future.

All this comes to mind as I hear comments about contested elections in associations. We are afraid to ask people to be in contested elections because it will produce winners and losers. That has to be one of the saddest commentaries on our society. By promoting contested elections, we push each candidate to not only be the best but to continue to improve. This is much like in sports where the starting player is constantly pushed by the reserve to reach higher potential. Why would we want to accept mediocrity?

You also see this in how we discuss ideas, thoughts or concerns. We have become a society where expressing one’s beliefs is frowned upon or even considered dangerous. If I bring up politics, I am told to keep it neutral. If I bring up religion, I must be accommodating. If I bring up societal concerns, I need to be accepting. There seems to be no ability to share true dialogue because again, a debate would possibly produce winners and losers. What is wrong with being willing to debate ideas and accept that sometimes we are right and even once and awhile, we might be wrong? Maybe if we did this, we could actually learn more.

So let me ask this question. Are you willing to put forth the effort to win? Are you willing to take the risk of loss? The answer to both questions has to be either yes or no and cannot be one without the other. I am not sure about you but I love to win. In fact, if I am competing, whether in sports, business, or even other aspects of life, I want to win and will take the necessary efforts to make it happen. At the same time, when things don’t come out as I would hope, I accept the outcome and reflect on how to better myself so as to not let it happen again. My hope is that you are not waiting for a participation medal but rather, are working to be the absolute best you can be.