Not winning but not losers

April 4, 2008

The popular TV shows, American Idol and Project Runway, have taught us the reality of “not winning” in useful ways. Useful in that we watch and process rejection and harsh criticism on television, an activity that, with any luck, can help us get through the pain of “not winning” when we ourselves don’t “win.”

We watch with horror as some people try to sing for the judges on American Idol — we laugh, and laugh at the judges trying NOT to laugh — and it is clear to the viewers at home that this contestant should never pursue a career in singing, regardless of how sincere you are. Sometimes that decision is made by a panel of 3 or 10 judges. Whether you are the entire TV viewing audience, a jury of 12, or a committee of 3, sometimes reaching a decision is relatively easy. And many times it is quite difficult.

I am on a teaching committee at UCLA where we all select a group of 6 professors and teaching assistants to receive Distinguished Teaching Awards. Having just done it, we all complained about having to exclude any of the professors. Nonetheless, we did. But I refuse to think of the people who were not selected as LOSERS. Just as the students who did not get into the school of their choice are not LOSERS.

Not winning stings, but it does not mean that you are a loser.

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