You've Got to Lose to Know How to Win

With my third place award from the Toastmasters Tall Tale Contest
am very competitive. I always have been. It’s fun to win but even if you don’t win, it’s still fun to try.
Each competitive experience helps you to grow and change, hopefully for the better.

I haven’t always chosen competitive arenas where I could win easily. In fact, in most of the areas I have competed, the odds were greatly stacked against me. Especially physical things.
I enjoyed competitive running for many years. I was a member of the Chicago Area Runners and ran competitively a couple of times a month. I enjoyed the race day atmosphere, the cool new t-shirt and other treats in the goody bag, and the opportunity to go out and do better than I had the previous time.

I began running in the USMC. I didn’t like it at first but it began to grow on me. I am just NOT built like a runner. I’m too heavy. But I can go for miles and miles and miles. It won’t be fast, but I will most definitely get there. One of my big claims to fame came one year at the Chicago Avenue on the Run 10K that took place on Mother’s Day weekend. I loved that race and the route. As I neared the finish line, I saw an elderly lady up ahead of me. I was in my late twenties at the time and I felt certain that I should be able to catch her and pass her by. And I almost did. I came through the chute right after her. The next day’s newspaper had her photo on the front page of the sports section. She was the oldest competitor in the race, an 86 year old grandma. Go granny, go! I figure that maybe, if I am running when I’m 86, I may stand a chance of actually winning. At least in my age division. J

After running, I decided I would compete as a bodybuilder. I have large, muscular thighs from years in cheerleading and other sports. I figured it would be a natural place for me to gravitate. After 12 years of preparation, I finally decided to compete in the Tampa Bay Natural. Did I say natural? I was, most certainly, the only completely “natural” bodybuilder on the stage but it didn’t matter to me. I was finally doing something I had worked towards for 12 years and I was excited. I decided to compete in the Open Tall class. I felt like that was where the real bodybuilders were, the real competition. I came in last. I could have competed in the Masters class and placed but I really wanted to go against the best in the show and I felt they were in the Open class.
The best minute of my life!

So I came in last but was it a loss? NO WAY! That one minute, where I performed my free posing routine to Billy Idol’s Flesh for Fantasy, in a red posing suit, was the BEST MINUTE OF MY WHOLE LIFE!

I competed in my first pageant at the age of 37. My mother didn’t believe in pageants and, when you are bound by the need for a ride, it’s difficult to compete as a teen. So my first pageant experience came as an adult. I remember being amazed at all of the “stuff” that the other ladies brought with them. They were prepared for anything. If I had had any kind of wardrobe malfunction, I’d have been doomed. I loved that whole experience and came away with the title of Mrs. Congeniality. I felt like I had won the whole pageant.

As a first time contestant, you can have an idea of what the pageant will be like. An idea of how to present yourself in the best way to the judges. An idea of what it takes to win. But without a coach or someone who has first hand knowledge to give you about all of that, it’s very difficult to pull out a win the first time.

As I reflected back on that experience, I realized that I wanted to do it again. I learned so much about pageantry by being around the other girls all weekend. Some of them had competed before and knew what to expect and how to present themselves at their best. I knew that if I examined my own performance, I could do better the next time. And I did. I worked hard to fix the areas that I knew needed attention and felt so much more confident going into it the second time. Did I capture the crown? No.

But did I lose? Absolutely not! I learned so much about myself. I learned what really motivated me, gained confidence and got into peak physical condition so that I would have the best chance to win. I gained friendships that remain to this day and I gained the experience of how to be gracious in not winning.

In the song Dream On, Arrowsmith sings, “You’ve got to lose to know how to win”. I believe this.

While we may not be happy that we don’t win, we need to realize that it wasn’t meant to be for us this time. It doesn’t mean that it will never be for us but for now, we must accept it and move forward. If we want to keep trying to achieve the win, we need to examine our performance AND our motivation for wanting to win in the first place. If we know that we have done our very best, given our all, then we must be prepared to let the chips fall where they may. And be gracious in either winning or not winning.

If you don’t learn from not winning and choose, instead, to say that the competition was fixed, or you have to know the right people to win, or you have to have a lot of money to win, or some other excuse outside of yourself, then you are truly a loser. But if you learn from the experience, taking away the best parts for your memories and working on any deficiencies that you have so you can perform better next time, you have won.

I have never had the big shiny crown placed on my head or won a big trophy (well actually I have won a ridiculously large trophy that I used to hide in the closet until I threw it away because it was that obnoxious but that’s another story) or pretty purple “Best in Show” ribbon but I feel that I am most definitely a winner. I have learned about myself and have grown and changed so much over the years to become the confident woman that I am today. It took me a long time to be okay with who I am. I believe it happened at the age of 41, rather late. But I also believe I arrived at that place because of the competitions I entered.
Ribbons from the Washington County Fair for two of my cakes
With each competition came a growth experience, a little more confidence, another clue as to who I am. Because of these experiences, I am able to cheer for the winner knowing that even though she may receive the big outward prize, I receive an equally big prize in self-knowledge and confidence. And with that, how can you lose?

Lauri Rottmayer-
Who has given us a great lesson in #winning today! Thank you Lauri!

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