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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Jones: Sometimes, winning isn't everything

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

One of my good friends, Mark Harmon, has a sign on his desk with the legendary Vince Lombardi quote that says "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

It inspired him so much that he had one made for each of his department managers to place in a prominent spot in their offices.

I have sat in on meetings or hung out in his office dozens of times but it wasn't until today that the sign provoked my feeble brain into some serious thought (a dangerous state if my friends or family had their say in this).

I fully realize that Mark's application of the saying is 100 percent business related and, in that context, I don't know of any business person who wouldn't agree that the alternative to not winning is bleak indeed.

Being a sports minded individual, the quote resonated with me so much that on this particular day I simply could not turn off the barrage of thoughts that were stimulated within me as it related to recent occurrences in my life.

I recently applied for another position within my company. After almost 10 years in my current job I was feeling that I would like to utilize other skills and was ready for new challenges.

The Jones family, like many, has had events occur in recent months that have profoundly affected our economic status and the job represented a substantial increase in income. I did the research, solicited advice from people I trusted and studied hard for the interview.

When the big day came I decked out in my best clothes and had what I thought was an excellent interview topped off with a personalized two-year business plan for progression within my new department that would surely demonstrate that I had the vision to take the job to the next level.

Needless to say, I was devastated when I learned that I was not chosen for the position. That is, until I woke up one morning to the stark realization that I was more upset about not winning than about missing out on the opportunity.

I was both ashamed and repulsed at the thought.

I was forced to ask myself since when had it become impossible to grasp or glean something from temporary setbacks? Had the concept of winning all the time become so ingrained into my psyche that I was willing to ignore my higher sense of self to accomplish it?

Looking at the big picture, my boss made a good solid call. He always does. The man threw a fastball up that I couldn't get around on and struck out with the bases loaded.

Simply put, a more qualified candidate was awarded the job.

My second professional life is focused on who won or lost the night before, who's in a slump or who is red hot, and how highly ranked my school's recruiting class is. I live and revel in it.

Unfortunately, being unable to separate it in this instance also contributed to my losing sight of what's truly important to me outside of sports.

It didn't take much to realize that more often then not, the positive lessons that one can learn through sports are often drowned out by a focus on less transcendental issues.

Athletes know what success means, and it's not always about winning. Sometimes it's setting a personal best, such as running a half mile a half-second faster than you ran it yesterday. Sometimes it's grabbing 10 rebounds. Sometimes it's placing in the top 10. The best athletes decide ahead of time how they'll define success, then strive for that.

I lost sight of that.

I reflected on what I'd learned in sports -- not only how to shoot, pass and rebound, but how to persist, even in the face of disappointment and defeat.

I did the very best I could do and in this particular circumstance I lost. It does not define who I am or disguise the fact that I am truly blessed to still have a great job when many Americans have become victims of downsizing.

Athletes walk with pride. They try new things. They persist in the face of doubt and defeat. They practice, they discipline themselves, and they know who their teammates are and how to help them when the chips are down.

Sports teach us -- well, some of us -- how to lose with dignity and, perhaps more importantly, win with class.

Thankfully, those teachings were right there under my nose all the time. All I had to do was look.

The best part is that we sometimes learn those lessons from the most unlikely of sources.

Mine was located about 20 feet down the hall from me.

-- Jimmy Jones is a Times-Gazette sports writer.

Jimmy Jones
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