Being Second Best

Jacob - Altoona, Iowa
Entered on January 29, 2009
Age Group: Under 18

In this world, people try to be the best at everything they do. It is a natural instinct to want to compete. Author Henry Van Dyke once said, “Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best.” Often people get so caught up in competing in their talents that they forget why they participated in the first place. People are afraid to make mistakes. One of the key lessons in life is learning how to make mistakes and how to recover from them.

I will admit that I like to be the best. When I am competing, first place is usually on my mind. Recently, I have tried out for All State on my French horn. All State is an honor band of the best musicians in the state of Iowa. It is the highest honor a high school musician can receive. I practiced vigorously all summer. I was practicing two required excerpts, all 12 scales and chromatic, and a one minute excerpt of a solo of my choice. My horn teacher kept giving me praise of how well I was doing. I was getting my hopes up because I really wanted to make All State.

The auditions were at a nearby high school. I was nervous beyond imagination. I practiced for five months leading up to this five minute audition. A lot of things could go wrong in five minutes. I was so nervous that I bombed a couple main parts of my audition. I was not surprised when I did not make it. I was not too disappointed because I was one out of around 40 horns trying out for six spots. Since I did not make All State, I tried out for another honor band. This band was specifically for people who did not make All State, and I received sixth chair. I learned that being the best was not everything in the world to me. Sixth chair in the second best honor band in the state was better than not making any honor band at all.

There are many activities that could not take place if only the best played. On any sports team, there can be only one best player. They could not compete with only one player on the team. A choir could not produce the same choral sound with only one person in the choir. A business could not survive with only their best employee on the job. The only way these activities could work is if everyone works as a team. If someone is bad at one thing, there is always someone that is better at it. It is not about being the best; it is about bettering the talents that are hard to master.

When I am competing at something I have to stop and think of why I was doing the activity in the first place. What was my purpose in the beginning? Am I trying to be the best, or am I trying to better the skills I already have? Usually, I realize that being the best is not everything.