If we can’t be the best, are we just wasting our time? Forgenerations, my family’s motto has been “Second place is just a nice name forfirst loser”. I was taught that life is one big competition, and my familyprizes academic and extracurricular achievements above everything. School issupposed to be a place of achievement. We work hard to score the highestgrades.

We join music clubs, academic decathlons, sport and debate teams, andwe compete to win. During national exams, we compete to get into the best secondaryschools, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities. After our school lifeends, we compete for the best jobs and to earn the highest incomes.

Even thisessay is part of a competition to determine who is worthy of a coveted spot inthis school. We are always striving to be number one. However, in everycompetition, there must be a loser. Not everyone can win. So, if ten students compete in a chess tournament, and onlyone wins, are the other nine students losers? Were their hard work, dedication,and efforts worthless? Competition is about comparing people and judging who isthe best. According to the rules, whoever wins is a success, and everyone elseloses. But recently I had to re-evaluate what it meant to be a winner.

Istarted thinking about success differently. Winning is part effort and partluck. How well the other competitors perform, talent, how the judges think andtheir preconceived perceptions, that’s luck. Luck is totally out of our control,but what we can control is our effort. I used to think that reward time isafter the competition, when they hand out the trophies, medals and certificates.Only now do I see that reward time is now. It is the thrill of competing, ofshowing others what I’ve got. Only now do I realise that if I’m focused on whatI’m doing, if I did my best and had fun doing it, I’m a success.

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Perhaps there is a deeper, more vital lesson to learn here,a lesson that can’t be graded or measured. Looking back, my greatest accomplishmentin school so far had nothing to do with scoring the highest grades or winningthe most trophies. I learned how to use my own judgement instead of followingothers blindly, to judge myself based on my own standards. I learned to find myown voice, to speak my own truth. I have no trophies or awards to show forthese achievements, yet these achievements can’t be taken away by failure. Inmy future, I know I will have both wins and losses, good times and bad.

But ifI give my all in everything I do, I can’t go wrong. We can’t always be thebest, but that doesn’t mean that our time was squandered. Our efforts are stillvalid, and we can still be proud of ourselves.