Here’s a statement I saw posted online – and, I received an email this morning promoting an online product that used this phrase as its centerpiece:
- “If you’re not first, you’re last.”
The message continues that at the Olympics, only Gold matters – and, in business and in life, first place is the exclusive position to be desired. Everything else is losing.
- Is that REALLY the case? If you don’t finish at the very top spot, does that truly mean you’ve failed – that you are, as this would seem to indicate, a “loser”?
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think athletes arrived in Rio for the Olympic Games with visions of Bronze dancing in their heads. Naturally, in all forms of competition and endeavor, being at the top of the heap is our desired destination.
However, I think to equate second place and last place – that there is no fundamental difference – is silly at best, and harmful at worst.
Last weekend, the PGA held the Travelers Insurance Championship at the TPC Highlands course in Cromwell, Connecticut. After 72 holes played over four days, Russell Knox won by a single stroke. For that victory, he was paid $1,188,000.
Last place in the tournament went to Heath Slocum – who had a couple of pretty bad days. Slocum shot rounds of 78 and 75 – and was cut from the event. He was paid zero prize money – and had to use his own funds for travel to the Connecticut golf course and his lodging for the weekend. Literally, he lost money by playing in the event.
Second place in the Travelers Insurance Championship went to Jerry Kelly. As mentioned earlier, he failed to win by only one stroke. However, for his runner-up finish he was paid $712,800 for the four-day tournament.
“If you’re not first, you’re last” means that there’s no difference between Kelly and Slocum last weekend.
If Jerry Kelly subscribes to this philosophy, shouldn’t he say, “Hey – I didn’t finish first, so I’m last. Keep your $712,800!”?
According to Forbes, Bill Gates is the richest person in the world, as his net worth of $75 billion puts him in first place.
- So, doesn’t “if you’re not first – you’re last” mean that Amancio Ortega’s $67 billion or Warren Buffett’s $60 billion is the same as being broke and homeless?
In the field of retail, Walmart is first among the “bricks and mortar” stores. I guess that means the folks at TSC (Tractor Supply Company – one of my pal, Joe Calloway’s favorite organizations) are big losers, because not being first is the same as being last.
We should ignore, then, that they doubled their operating margin from 2008 to 2012, and grew sales of in-house brands to 25% of total sales. Over the past several years, they’ve quadrupled gross sales, their stock has increased tenfold, and they’ve been named one of the “best managed companies in America,” according to Forbes.
- But, hey – they’re not first…so they’re losers, right?
What you think and what you believe are critical components of your professional success – and personal fulfillment, as well.
None of us should desire a status in our careers that implies mediocracy as our target or a lack purpose in our performance.
However, when we set lofty targets and perform to the best of our abilities, we have done something that should be admired – regardless of the precise spot where we finish on anyone else’s rankings.
It was Norman Vincent Peale who wrote, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
That remains great advice to this day.
My new definition of “loser” is someone who thinks that it’s only the one in first place who is a winner.