On winning

1 minute read

This morning, I noticed that my daughter was crying in her room. She informed me that she had crushed her pinky finger in a drawer and it hurt badly.

My first hypothesis was that the finger was the main source of her pain. But, after a bit of digging, she said that no, it was the fear of failing a standardized test in Singapore for admission to the local school system.

The fear of not winning was on her mind.

This made me want to engage in a bit of a philosophical discussion with her. She’s always been, for as long as I can remember, very quick at learning and tends to be on the winning side more often than not, across a surprisingly wide range of activities: academically, athletically, in games, in arts, etc.

I’m very proud of her.

But one thing that happens when you keep on winning is that it becomes part of your identity. And when that becomes part of your identity, not winning is something that you become afraid of, like the prospect theory by Daniel Kahneman suggests: not winning can be more painful than the pleasure of winning.

In a way, the love of winning and wanting to win badly, yes, it’s a motivator, but it’s also a weakness.

A better strength is to not be afraid of losing.

To not be afraid of losing means that you’re confident that even in loss, you will learn. And that your identity is much more about improving and much more about putting in efforts to position yourself such that you survive another day, help others around you, and make the best out of the situations and the environment you’re in.

That’s a stronger mindset.