Second Place is The Same as First Loser

POST DATE Feb 22, 2017

AUTHOR Udo Jahn

Like many people, I enjoy watching sports. Well, kind of. What I really mean is that I LOVE watching sports and I often get really worked up about the team I’m rooting for. I’ve been known to jump up and down both when my team is winning, and when they’re losing. There is no in between. 

I hate it when my team loses, as you probably do, too. The people who know me can tell when my team loses. And if you’re someone that I know, you’re probably smiling as you read this because you know it’s true.

While I love sports, I also have a huge problem with it: something I call the “No Shows”. You know, those teams that kind of show up by playing, but they don’t play to the best of their ability for the whole game. 

I get that sometimes that’s due to injuries, bad refereeing, or maybe the opposing team is just plain better, but for some people, there is always a justification for a losing effort. I pretend that I understand those reasons but really, I don’t!

I’ve watched my children grow up playing sports and there were definitely times I was frustrated. It just seemed like the effort wasn’t there. 

If you lose when you tried your best, that’s one thing. But losing when you haven’t tried your best is another thing entirely.

The Silver Medal Mentality

When this lack of effort comes up, I call it the silver medal mentality. People who don’t want to try their best, so instead of shooting for the top, they’re aiming for first loser.

I’ve seen this mentality creep into the business and manufacturing worlds as well.

However, I like to remain on the side of optimism and assume that most people in business do care. I don’t mean that they have feelings and like to hug (though some fit that bill for sure), I mean that they genuinely care about their businesses, and future goals.

This caring needs to extend down to the employee, not just the employer. In many cases, it does. There are lots of great employees out there who really do care about their company’s goals and objectives.

But there’s more to the equation than just caring.

To put it bluntly, caring doesn’t pay the bills.

Companies, and employees, need to care about their roles but also, they need to make a real effort by giving each task their full attention, and showing up every day ready to do their absolute best work.

The Problem With Just ‘Showing Up’

This is a phrase a lot of businesspeople like to say – showing up. It doesn’t just mean physically being at work, it means being mentally present and ready to work hard.

What I see happening in many organizations is that people are just taking ‘showing up’ at face value by punching in, sitting at their desks and zoning out their brains until later when they can watch the latest recorded episode of The Bachelor (okay, or Game of Thrones).

Many employees just don’t do their absolute best. Why?

I’ve heard a million complaints that apparently prevent people from giving their best effort. These reasons include everything from taxes being too high, the economic climate is not right, they can’t compete, and they’re in the wrong location to my favourite, “It’s not the right time!” 

It’s not the right time! Oh, well, in that case, if only I had known to check my watch to look for Success o’ Clock!

Give me a break.

Those reasons are just excuses, and they keep people stuck in a silver medal mentality, ready to chase after the coveted First Loser position. 

How to Fix Your Effort Problem

Again, I am not talking about people either in sports or life who do receive a second place, or silver medal, award. I am not belittling that. When you work hard to the best of your ability and come in second, there is no shame in that and it is in fact, a huge accomplishment.

I simply mean it is not acceptable for people to give less than their Gold Medal effort, or in other words, to not ‘bring their A game’, especially at work.

People should be taken to task for bringing their C, D or F game which really means they weren’t trying and just wanted a participation ribbon for their work.

I see many businesses in existence today who are lucky to to still be here because they are not bringing their A game effort. It’s frustrating to watch.

I know there are those of you who take great joy in watching their sinking ships. People who say things like, “Those companies who sink are just making room for the rest of us!” Right. That’s correct. But the real problem is, many of these C and below effort companies used to be profitable, or even extremely profitable.

So how did they descend so fast into unprofitability, and even bankruptcy? 

Many silver medal companies, like big tech giants who made a ton of money but have disappeared since then, were just lucky for awhile. Now they’re only remembered by an empty shell of a building and a footnote in an obscure Wikipedia article.

Don’t think that just because a company is making money that they are playing an A game.

I know many people are going to disagree with me on this topic, but hey, that’s why we have the freedom of speech, right? Really think about it, though. The key to success is really as simple as just bringing our A game every single day.

We as companies, and employees, need to start thinking about going for gold, so to speak. No excuses.

In closing, just to make my point, I’ll ask you, “Who won Superbowl 51?” I know your answer will probably be the best team did, but in reality it was the team that did not want the silver medal the most. Good game by the way, right?

How do you ensure you’re always bringing your A game to work?

Author: Udo Jahn

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