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.