When I was a kid, I hated to lose. If I did something, I wanted to be the best.
If we played cards, I played to win. If we played Monopoly, I wanted to own all of the hotels. Same with Yahtzee. Baseball. Anything, really.
And if I didn’t win, I cried. I stomped. I threw things. I generally acted like a dope. So sometimes I won fair-and-square; other times, my competitors rolled over and lost intentionally because it was easier than putting up with my antics.
As I grew older, it became more and more obvious that I wouldn’t win every competition. I wanted to blow people away with my GPA, but I wasn’t the smartest kid in school. I wanted to play the trumpet like Louis Armstrong, but I was more of a warbler than a clarion.
But I still wanted to win. I still wanted to be the best. And I still acted a little crazy when I wasn’t.
And so it was through college, where I played to win all of the time. And when I started work, I spent a lot of time trying to be the best. And as a new husband and parent, there seemed to be no reason I couldn’t be the best.
But time and experience have a way of sapping the psyche, and the quest to be best is one thing I seem to be losing.
Long ago, I became comfortable losing board games and sporting contests and just about anything else that involves scores and defining winners — it wasn’t so much a choice as a reality. There are always better athletes, more strategic players and just plain lucky competitors out there who simply find a way to win.
In the work-a-day world, I decided years ago that becoming the president of a multinational corporation or a major sports team or a Fortune 500 company is probably beyond my skills and motivation. I’ve grown OK with being a small fish in a small pond, I guess, as long as the water stays relatively fresh and the pond doesn’t look like it’s ready to be drained anytime soon.
And as far as being the best parent and spouse of all time, more than 20 years of experience have made me want to meet the person who can pull that off. I have my moments, like many of you, I’m sure, but there’s always a more kid-friendly parent nearby and a more sensitive spouse pulling down bigger bucks somewhere down the street, too.
You would think that to a once hyper-competitive guy like me, consciously settling in as second- or third- or ten-thousandth-banana would be painful and demeaning and worthy of some type of violent fit of anger.
But I like to think of my acceptance of things as they are as a sign of maturity. And speaking of maturity, come to think of it, maybe I can be the best old guy in town.