I’m going to blame it all on Bozo. Yes, Bozo, the wacky orange-haired, blue suited clown from the now defunct children’s Saturday morning line-up on WGN. As my second grade class lined up to take our seats for a taping of The Bozo Show, we were each given a number. I intuitively knew that my number was important, even though I wasn’t quite sure why. I just kept silently repeating my number over and over. Eventually, they called my number. I skied around an obstacle course of traffic cones, and, with my teammates, I walked away a winner with a bag of Matt’s Chocolate Chip Cookies, a boxed magic set, and Juicy Juice. I was hooked.
Bozo made me realized that I don’t want to sit in the audience and watch others. I want to participate. The Bozo Show wasn’t my biggest win to date, but it has been my most memorable. Because of Bozo, I’ve become a serial contestant.
Routinely entering contests has helped me cultivate a certain mindset. I believe in myself, even when it isn’t rational to do so. If I didn’t, it would be impossible for me to rationalize why I stayed on the phone for over two hours to score tickets to the Oprah Show or how my quick e-mail reply granted me tickets to see Barack Obama’s presidential nomination speech in Chicago.
I’ve realized that most people don’t believe in themselves in this “it’s me against the odds” way, because sometimes there aren’t any other contestants willing to play the game. During my freshman year, I was one of three people to apply for two scholarships to study in Tokyo for the summer. And off I went. Maybe it’s not entirely fair to compare a scholarship to a game of chance, but either way I’m ultimately after the grand prize.
There are many more contests that I’ve entered and lost, but I would rather dwell on my winnings. My dad likes to tell the story of how, when I was five-years-old, he gave me a scratch-off lottery ticket. I still don’t understand his rationale, but as I proceeded to scratch, my dad cautioned, “don’t be disappointed because you never win.” I was suddenly twenty-five dollars richer. Since then, I’ve usually listened to my dad, but never any naysayers. When some saw it as slightly irrational to spend endless hours applying for the Fulbright in the slight chance that I may be accepted, I applied. And off I went again.
While I love the thrill of victory, I’m also in it for the experience. Take my participation in a reality television series on National Geographic Channel’s CityChase, which follows adventurers on an urban obstacle course. As a participant, I completed challenges ranging from eating large amounts of spicy food to jumping into a life-sized fish tank filled with ice-cold water. Not so different from my first challenge as a second-grader skiing indoors around an obstacle course of traffic cones. I have Bozo to thank.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.