For the Win

The late Al Davis, former owner of the Oakland Raiders football team, was famous for a saying, “Just win baby.” He believed in his franchise and in his credo of a commitment to excellence. Whether Al Davis was a great owner, or an eccentric and reckless meddler can be determined by the historians. His quote, however, will live forever as a testament to his legacy.

I never win anything. Maybe you’re plagued with the same curse. I’ve won some games in sports, a few minor trophies in intramurals, but when it comes to winning something through luck, I always seem to come up dry.

Those of us who have this problem never get our raffle ticket called, never get our name called for a prize, and seemingly have the worst luck on the planet. Even the sports teams we cheer for seem to have no end of bad luck. I had one friend tell me that if he didn’t have bad luck he’d have none at all. You’ve probably heard that line at some point in your life.

Contrary to that, I know a few people who seem to win things all the time. They seem like the luckiest people on the planet, and for a long time, I have to admit that I kind of resented them. Just a little.

My earliest memories of not winning come from elementary school. The fire department would come around every year to do fire safety talks with all the kids. Our mission was to complete a drawing of our home’s floor plan and show all the exits in case we needed to escape a fire. Every single year from first grade to eighth (my school was kindergarten to eight) I would dutifully submit my escape plan.

At the end of the week, the firemen would return with their shiny truck and would hold a drawing for our little school. They randomly pulled the escape plans from a big box and called out the names on the sheets of paper to award prizes to the children. Some of the awards were small, like a free sandwich at a nearby shoppe. The biggest one, though, was what all the kids wanted to win: a brand new bicycle.

Every year, the firemen would give out dozens of prizes to the children of my school, always passing over my name. And every year, I saw that beautiful bicycle go to someone else.

One year, I was sitting impatiently through the undercard prizes when I heard my name called. The prize I’d won was a free milkshake at the aforementioned sandwich shoppe. The funny thing was that my heart sank when I heard my name called. By winning the milkshake, I knew that there was no chance of me winning the grand prize of a shiny new bicycle. I was focused entirely on what I WOULDN’T be getting.

When I stood up to make my way to the front of the gym, I must not have hidden my disappointment very well, because the fireman said, “If you don’t want it we can give it to someone else.”

I ungratefully waived my hand at him and told him that was fine, rejecting my pitiful little prize.

I never heard my name called for another prize for the rest of the years I attended that school. And I never won that bicycle.

Fast forward to an event I recently attended in which they held a raffle. Everyone in attendance was given one ticket, and there were hundreds of people there. At the end of the event, the people in charge held a drawing for several prizes, and one grand prize of a brand new high definition television.

Ever since my days in elementary school, I simply assume that I will not win, and so didn’t even attend the drawing, instead making an appearance at a wedding reception for a few hours. When I returned to the event, I was greeted by a woman smiling broadly at me. “You won a prize!” she said excitedly.

I smiled back at her and told her she must have been joking.

“No,” she insisted. “You won something. They are holding it for you on the stage.”

I still didn’t really believe it, but I made my way toward the stage through the mass of people exiting the building. When I arrived, I told the man at the podium my name. He reached down, grabbed my prize, and handed it to me. It wasn’t the new television. By comparison, it was probably worth a fraction of that. But instead of the reaction I had with the milkshake, I was overcome with joy. I couldn’t believe I’d won something, and was so excited to receive even a small token.

I took the items out to my car for safe keeping and returned to the event to continue hanging out with some of the nice people I’d met over the course of the weekend. As I was talking with a new friend from Los Angeles, I brought up the fact that I’d won a prize in the raffle, and how excited I’d been over the win.

He seemed genuinely happy for me, but commented that he typically never won anything. His comment got me thinking. After a few minutes of consideration, I went back to my car and retrieved a portion of my prize. I gave it to my friend and told him I wanted him to have it. After a minute of saying he couldn’t accept it, he finally did when I explained to him that now we were both winners.

This may seem like a silly story and you might be wondering what the point of it could be.

Well, there are three lessons to learn from it.

1. Appreciate the small wins. I regret how I acted the day I turned down the prize of a free milkshake. I wish I had accepted it gratefully and just been happy to have won something. By appreciating the small wins in our life, we live from a more mindful point of gratitude, which will always lead to bigger and better things.

2. Rejoice in the wins of others. Whenever I heard someone else’s name called for that bicycle, I became envious of the winner, and the resentful feelings I displayed only gave negative emotions to the world. I believe we have the power to choose to add good or bad to those around us and that the feelings we put into our reality help create our future. My friend from Los Angeles was genuinely happy for my win, and his good feelings were shared by everyone around us.

3. Share your wins with others. When you act from a point of selflessness instead of selfishness, it adds to the positive feeling in the world around you. Sharing my winnings with my friend felt even better than actually winning something. On top of that, it made him feel good, and he appreciated the gift I’d given him.

What are some small wins you may have overlooked in your life? Share them with the community in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter. I’d love to hear about them.

 

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Find Your Berry Patch

The other day, I went to a friend’s parents’  house to meet him and his wife for dinner. His parents were going to watch their baby while we went out to eat.

Even though I’ve known this friend for almost twenty years, I’d never actually been inside his family’s home. I also had never really spoken with his parents.

They were extremely welcoming, and talked with us for nearly thirty minutes about all kinds of things. While we were conversing, my friend’s mother invited us to eat some of the blueberries they’d picked the day before. She directed us to an enormous tray on the kitchen island. The giant dish overflowed with hundreds of fresh blueberries.

I love berries, especially ones that are so packed full of nutrients like blueberries, so I started eating them one by one. As I and my friend helped ourselves to the tasty berries, his mother started talking about the picking process. I must have stirred up that part of the conversation because I remarked how painstaking a process it is to pick blueberries, and how long it must have taken her to harvest that many.

She laughed and agreed. She said that picking blueberries is most definitely a slow, methodic procedure. You have to take the berry, one at a time, and twist them gently to get them off the stem, then repeat with the next piece of fruit. If you’ve ever gone berry picking, you know what I’m talking about.

What was more interesting, however, was her next comment about the picking process. She said that while she was harvesting the fruit, the slow, methodical nature of it caused her to reflect on some different things. One of those things was how amazing hands are. Hands can do incredible feats of skill. They can twist in different directions, and the fingers are so versatile, all at the command of the human mind. Continue reading

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Lost Socks

It happens to all of us. Well, most of us anyway.

It seems to happen to me all the time.

I go to the store to buy a new set of socks. Invariably, six to ten weeks later I am missing several of them.

I know that I had them when I started my laundry. It seems like there is some kind of vortex inside the clothes dryer.

You probably know what I’m talking about.

I’ve heard stories about mythical sock monsters or that inside the dryer is a gateway to another dimension. If there really is a worm hole, I feel bad for that other dimension because it has to be packed to the brim with everyone’s missing socks.

Where our socks disappear to is one of life’s insignificant yet puzzling questions. I’d sure like to know the answer. And don’t suggest that maybe I lost them or they dropped behind the washer and dryer. I’ve already checked everywhere.

The point remains, we find ourselves asking little questions like that all the time. Occasionally, we let those questions or doubts get the better of us and we make too much of them when really, we would be better off taking them with a grain of salt. Continue reading

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Hit the Reset Button

Sometimes you just seem to be on a roll. Everything is going great. You can’t lose no matter how hard you try.

I love it when that happens. Although, it doesn’t seem to happen very often. That’s life, I guess.

Life is full of times when things don’t seem to be going our way. One complication leads to another, and before you know it, you’re completely out of sorts, seemingly losing your mind.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Continue reading

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One Life Hack That Can Help You Feel Better in 7 Days

I go to the grocery store a few times a week. On every visit, I walk through the produce section, fully intending to buy some fresh fruits and vegetables. I know I should eat more fruits and veggies. Most of us are in that boat. But when I get there to the produce area, I see all the different things and start wondering what I’m going to do with them.

There’s broccoli, bok choi, tomatoes, apples, bananas, kale, spinach, berries, and so many great foods, I always get a little overwhelmed. I start wondering which ways I should cook the veggies, what I’ll eat with them, and what day I’m going to eat them because after a while, they’ll go bad.

I begin to create excuses to not buy my fruits and vegetables. I’ve caught myself doing this with exercise too. And I know other people have done it because I recently saw it on a commercial (either Gatorade or Nike). I’ll get all dressed up to go for a run, putting on my running shoes and shorts, then get outside and feel a droplet of rain hit my skin.

“Well, I guess I can’t run today. That’s too bad. But I tried.”

At least that’s what we tell ourselves. And another day of no veggies or no exercise goes by the wayside.

Here’s the deal. Life is hard. We all know it. We’re all living it.

I recently asked my reading community (which you may be a part of) if anyone was struggling with anxiety. I asked because I had to fight through it fairly recently and have had lots of people ask me for help regarding that topic. The response was overwhelming. Continue reading

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Believe

At many sporting events across the world, you will typically see someone, usually at least one person, holding up a sign or banner that contains one word. Believe.

I’ve heard some cynics say that the word believe is something that losers use as their last, desperate rallying cry.

As a fan of teams who are usually desperate, I can see that, but there is something far bigger at play when we talk about believing in something. Belief pushes us, it moves us, and it motivates us. When we believe in something, we are more apt to give that something every ounce of energy and focus we can muster. Continue reading

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