Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 13, 2012

by Janet Pfeiffer

I'm not a competitive person. While I've competed in 5 & 10K races and half and full marathons, the order in which I crossed the finish line was immaterial to me. I cared only about completing the race. I know others are far more accomplished and serious race walkers than I am. I only wanted to prove to myself I could do it.

I've never felt the need to be better than anyone else but I have always felt the need to be better than myself. I believe if I am not growing and improving each day, I am not fully alive; I'm cheating myself. I need to be conscious of always being my personal best. (For the record, I'm not always.)

I have nothing against those who like competition. A good challenge can drive people to accomplish amazing goals: to push themselves beyond their current abilities, overcome enormous obstacles and realize their dreams. For some, however, the need to be the best is rooted in self esteem. To "settle" for second best is a reflection of their worth, rather than ability. I remember many years ago watching the Olympics. Figure skating was one of my favorite sports and upon completion of the competition, a reporter interviewed the young American who captured second place. "Are you disappointed you didn't win the gold?" he asked. "Are you kidding!" she exclaimed. "I'm thrilled to have won the silver medal!" I loved her attitude: she was truly proud of her accomplishment even if there was someone who achieved more.

As American Idol enters its 11th season as one of the top rated TV shows on the air, many of us would be hard pressed to recite all 10 previous winners of the coveted title. So many have fallen from the public eye shortly after reaching idol status. However, some who ranked lower went on to achieve even greater success: Jennifer Hudson, Katherine McPhee (star of "Smash"), Chris Daughtry (hit after hit). Sometimes, being number one is not as prestigious as it appears.

Does it feel great to be acknowledged as the best of the best? Of course. I've won first place in several writing competitions for my children's books and blue ribbons for my nature photography. I've even won gold medals in race walking. But the trophy was never the reason I entered those contests. It was to push myself to face new challenges and to be more.

When I place second I am reminded of Ticonderoga pencils. At the beginning of each school year, our teachers would send home a list of supplies each student needed: composition notebook, ruler, and three Ticonderoga #2 pencils - number 2, never #1. Sometimes being second is better.

If my personal best is worthy only of silver, I'm ok with that. I've earned it. Remember, one man's silver can be worth its weight in gold.