"No time for losers"

It is not often that I find myself agreeing with much of what Piers Morgan has to say- especially these days. He is an arrogant ass- which is actually fine in and of itself, since I am one too, and so are many of the people I admire and follow. (As, I imagine, are more than a few of my readers. So, y'know, pot, meet kettle, etc.)

The difference between him and me is that I'm not a pompous, posturing idiot blowhard when it comes to things like, say, guns and race in America. I mean, if you're such a smug, preening, narcissistic twat that Jeremy Clarkson- the Lord's very own Apostle of Petrol- punches you in the face, then there is more wrong with you than even His host can fix.

However, Mr. Morgan's latest write-up, this time about Michael Phelps, is actually spot-on for a change:
Phelps is now inarguably the greatest Olympian of all time. 
He’s won a ridiculous 21 Gold Medals. 
Only Usain Bolt comes close to matching him for the title. 
Both share the same ethos: winning is all that matters. 
Do it fairly, do it clean, but win.
For these two supreme champions, coming 2nd or 3rd is like hoping you were going to end up in bed with Cindy Crawford and ending up with Madonna. [Gee, thanks for that mental image, jackass. We know what Madonna looks like these days. It's not pretty.]
They just don’t care about silver or bronze. 
Just as people like Phelps’ hero Michael Jordan, or Tiger Woods, or Serena Williams have never cared about anything but being No1 either. 
That’s why they have been the best at what they do. 
The truth is that in sport, if you don’t win, you lose. If you’re serious about competition, there’s no middle ground for ‘doing your best’. 
This is not a theory which endeared me to the frenzied Twitterati this morning, who lined up to abuse me for daring to suggest that Gold medals are all that matter. 
Most of the more insulting responses, I noticed, came from Olympians who had never won Gold themselves. 
This is not, I would argue, a coincidence.
A rather pithier version of the same basic sentiment was once provided by (who else?) Sean Connery in one of my favourite Michael Bay films, The Rock:
John Mason: Are you sure you're ready for this?
Stanley Goodspeed: I'll do my best.
John Mason: Your "best"?! Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and f@ck the prom queen!
Stanley Goodspeed: Carla WAS the prom queen.
John Mason: Really?
(Hey, I've openly admitted that I have terrible taste in movies. I quite liked the Angry Birds Movie, for example.)

Thing is, Mr. Morgan is correct (for once). There is no consolation for coming in second. Why should any self-respecting man be happy with second place, when in reality, such a thing means that we have failed at our purpose?

Driven, aggressive alpha males like Michael Phelps, and other great athletes of his calibre- I'm thinking men like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Lance Armstrong, and Michael Schumacher- will do whatever it takes, within whatever moral codes that they observe or adhere to, to be the best, or at least the best that they can be. They rarely, if ever, make excuses for themselves when they fail. They don't settle for second place because that means that they have failed in their mission.

The same set of traits repeats itself in any great alpha male you care to name. Ronald Reagan. Jack Welch. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Donald Trump. Elon Musk. Clint Eastwood. Andy Bolton. Dominick Cruz. Bruce Wayne. The list goes on, and on, and on.

Men like that are ruthless, driven, egotistical, ambitious, and sometimes monomaniacal in their pursuit of glory.

And- as long as they don't let these traits consume them and turn them into monsters- there is nothing in the world wrong with this.

There is certainly nothing wrong with attempting to emulate their mindset, either.

There is nothing in the world wrong with seeing failure for what it is: a painful and difficult lesson that must nonetheless be heeded. Failure is a teacher and a tool that drives men toward greatness through the pain of its sting. Failure is never something that a man should strive toward- that would be insane- but it is something that can and must be learned from.

If you are a world-class athlete, and you didn't win gold, you failed.

If you are a great businessman, and you didn't close that deal you've been working on for months- for whatever reason- you failed.

If you are a skilled programmer and you wrote some amazing code designed to solve a complex technical problem, but you didn't debug it thoroughly enough and now it's crashed and taken down critical infrastructure with it, you failed.

If you are a powerlifter and you didn't manage to get the bar back up after attempting a heavy back squat or bench press, you failed.

If you train in martial arts and you didn't throw a kick correctly, or didn't control your body properly and ended up screwing up a particular technique, you failed.

Fine. Dust yourself off. Learn from it. Embrace the pain. Deal with it. And then do whatever it takes to ensure that you never have to go through that again.

These are not comfortable things to hear, but at some level most adults understand them to be true. Attempting to avoid ever feeling the pain of failure by deluding people into thinking that they deserve praise and recognition just for showing up is not an adult reaction to the realities of the world. It is a thoroughly juvenile, and quite pathetic, attempt to shield one's fragile ego and psyche from the harsh but necessary facts of life.

The world isn't interested in losers or whiners. If you think carefully about the people in your life, you will quickly realise that the ones who matter the most to you are the ones with the least tolerance for self-pity and bitching.

And if you think carefully about the people who depend upon you, you'll realise even more quickly that those people work best with and for you when they know that you can be depended upon to get things done with a minimum of fuss and complaint.

It is certainly true that not everybody is cut out to be a championship-level athlete, obviously. However, that is no excuse for any man to simply give up and say, "this is as good as it gets, time to stop striving and improving".

That is the lesson that Michael Phelps provides. He could easily have just stayed retired, sat on his arse and refused to have anything more to do with competitive sports. He had a beautiful girlfriend, an infant son, boatloads of money, fame, wealth, and power. He pretty much had it all.

And yet he wasn't satisfied. He was still hungry for more. So he got back into the pool, starting training again, and carried on doing what he does best: winning.

That is inspirational. That is amazing. That spirit should be celebrated. And every man should take that lesson to heart.

Never stop improving. Never be satisfied with the way things are. Never lose that hunger to become more than what you are now- so that, if you were on your deathbed tomorrow and you saw the man that you were and the man that you could have been, you would then realise that they are one and the same.


  1. Eduardo the Magnificent11 August 2016 at 22:33

    Vince Lombardi on the NFL's former third-place game: "It's a hinky-dink football game, held in a hinky-dink town, played by hinky-dink players. That's all second place is – hinky dink."


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