Go For the Bronze (or Why Doing Your Best IS Success)
We focus on "success" as our ultimate goal in business. However, sometimes getting a "bronze" is all the success we need.
Last weekend, I felt completely humiliated at church.
On that Sunday, we were planning a special service honoring women. However, during choir rehearsal, we had too many pieces to run through, and I never got to rehearse my solo, “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy, intended to be the culminating moment.
I know that rehearsal makes all the difference, but there simply wasn’t time, and there was no turning back. I approached the microphone with great trepidation. Long story short, it fell flat. Literally, flat.
I sat down next to my husband, red-faced. He said something to me and I stared blankly at him. All I could reply was, “I’m not listening to you right now; I’m too humiliated.” After years of singing at church, both in the choir and as a soloist, I felt I had gone from respected musician to complete failure.
After the service, my singing partner Jeanne came over. I explained that we hadn’t rehearsed. She gave me a hug and then said, “There is something to be said for the person who puts ego and fears aside and says, ‘I’ll do my best.’ That in and of itself is a success.”
It took me a couple days to get over the sting of the experience, but it got me thinking: What is success, really?
We are conditioned by our culture to define “success” as big wins and major accomplishments. Because of that, we are averse to taking risks, especially when we’re not confident. But is success only when you get a standing ovation after a gold medal performance? Maybe success can be going on stage and singing your heart out, even if you go off tune. Maybe success is doing your best with the resources you have. Maybe success is having an experience that you wouldn’t have had otherwise, had you not taken that risk.
I applaud Olympic snowboarders Shaun White, Red Gerard, and Chloe Kim for their spectacular gold medals in the 2016 Olympics. And I’m inspired by Pita Toufatofua, the Tongan taekwondo-turned-cross-country-skier who only got to ski on real snow for the first time 90 days before the Games started. His big accomplishment? Not coming in dead last.
Sometimes we go all out and shine. Sometimes we don’t try hard and do well. And sometimes success is just showing up.