This I Believe
What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “first place finish?” Gold medals, achievement, shouting fans and personal joy all come to mind. What about a “second place finish?” Some might think of sorrow and disappointment. Why is this? Why is coming in second or worse considered a failure? Personally, I believe in the power of second place, and the influence it can have.
On the day of my Middle School Science Fair, I was resolutely positive that I would win first place. There was no doubt in my mind. Unfortunately for me, the judges didn’t exactly look on the expansion of boiling water as highly as I did. As a result, I was out before the event really even started.
To put it simply, I was devastated. However, propelled forward by my embarrassing loss, I entered the fair the next year with even more enthusiasm than probably necessary. I worked for a consecutive five months perfecting and primping my design. On occasion, I would even stay up to the sleepy hours of the morning working on my project.
The day of the Science Fair came and to my utter amazement, I won first place. The change from the previous year was so drastic that I could hardly comprehend it all. It didn’t seem possible to me. The true moment of awe and impossibility, however, came when I took third place in the Technical Engineering section of the regional science fair – a competition among almost all the middle school students living in the eastern half of my state. I’d like to say that these totally cool results came from my sheer brilliancy and design: That would be a lie. Would you like to know the real reason I won? It was motivation : Pure ,simple, wonderful, motivation.
I never would have had the determination to work as hard as I did were it not for my loss the year before. Looking back though, I realize that my loss was not really a loss. It was more like a preparatory state that helped me achieve more the next year. I see this same principle applied in other aspects of life as well. All the best Athletes, Musicians and Scholars haven’t come in first at something only to be the best the next year or the year after. Losing at something can give you more influence and power than any large amount of inspirational speeches or quotes can. This is why I encourage all you people to come in second on occasion. You’ll be surprised at how wonderful you’ll feel later.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.