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Those poor Cleveland Browns just can’t catch a break. They can’t catch a football either.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to waste space cracking on the sad pro football team to our north. Isn’t life more than about who is winning and who is losing?  I think so. But I think Vince Lombardi (famed Green Bay Packers football coach) had a more accurate perspective on our world when he said, “Winning is not everything, it is the only thing.”  Whatever happened to the old adage, “It’s not about who wins but how you play the game”?  I think it walked out the door when another adage, “Second place is the first loser” walked in. The truth is the second chair is one of the most important instruments in an orchestra.  Being the backup doesn’t mean you back down, rather it means you step up when called.

If you’re like me and are a sucker for leadership books, you’ll remember The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a classic written by Dr. Stephen Covey.  Stephen was a student of the subject called life. His Mormon faith helped shape his world view, which drove him to find the answer to what the meaning of true greatness is and how it’s achieved.  One of the things he discovered in his research was that decades ago many of the materials that were written regarding self-improvement focused on what he called the character ethic.  His research also caused him to conclude that most of modern day self-help books focus on personality, not character.  It seems like people are more interested in how to become a celebrity rather than how to become a person of character.

Sadly, we’ve discovered that behind some awful acts of terror lies a sick desire by the perpetrator to be noticed at any cost, to gain “celebrity” status. There’s an argument to be made that making them infamous only plays into their sick desire for notoriety.  In some demented way, this is their way of “winning.” Perhaps the media should consider giving them less air time, whether through the generic use of “he” or “she” instead of their name or by not using their picture in the coverage of the tragedy.

So what in the world do the winless Browns, Stephen Covey, and sick narcissistic personalities that love the lime light have in common, and how do they fit in with my message? It’s all about a proper (or in some cases, improper) concept of winning and losing.  Stephen Covey’s book has a chapter titled “Win/Win.”  Here’s some of what he has to say.

“Think Win-Win isn’t about being nice, nor is it a quick-fix technique. It is a character-based code for human interaction and collaboration. Most of us learn to base our self-worth on comparisons and competition. We think about succeeding in terms of someone else failing–that is, if I win, you lose; or if you win, I lose. Life becomes a zero-sum game. There is only so much pie to go around, and if you get a big piece, there is less for me; it’s not fair, and I’m going to make sure you don’t get anymore. We all play the game, but how much fun is it really?

Win-win sees life as a cooperative arena, not a competitive one. Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win-win means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying. We both get to eat the pie and it tastes pretty good!

Many people think in terms of either/or: either you’re nice or you’re tough. Win-win requires that you be both. It is a balancing act between courage and consideration. To go for win-win, you not only have to be empathetic, but you also have to be confident. You not only have to be considerate and sensitive, you also have to be brave. To do that–to achieve that balance between courage and consideration–is the essence of real maturity and is fundamental to win-win.”

I recently heard someone suggest that the Millennial generation has been shielded from a competitive world by making sure everyone is a winner in some way shape or form.  Everyone gets a ribbon, although the “real” winner’s might be a different color.  Those who view this philosophy in a negative way argue we’re setting these young people up for failure since “everyone wins” isn’t truly what happens in the real world.

Hey I get it!  We live in a world that lives and dies by measurements. We score everything from beauty to ice cream at the county fair. Someone is always made the hero and someone the goat in this world of image and branding.  I’m not suggesting that good competition is wrong; in fact, it can be awesome.  What makes it wrong is when we attach labels, pass judgement, and make generalizations about the winners and losers.  Come on- not all Millennials have an entitlement mindset or live in their parents’ basement.

What makes this dog-eat-dog culture so toxic is that we are living in a time when it appears all is fair in love and war and _________.  Gloating and chest thumping have become the norm.  My concern is that in the world of race, politics, and religion “whatever it takes to win regardless of who it hurts” is the mantra that is setting us on a collision course where everyone loses.

In our strident pursuit of winning, what if we all lose?

Last Tuesday I spent an inspiring evening at the Polsky Awards where Judge Carla Moore was honored for her outstanding contributions to our community.  She was clearly the winner, but she did everything but gloat.  Rather, Judge Moore thanked everyone who contributed to her success, beginning with her parents.  We didn’t interpret her recognition as being about her rather, it was about us.  Yes, she put in the hard work to attain this status of recognition but there were others, like her mother, that stepped up when Carla needed her. Most of all Carla made it clear that God was the reason for anything she did that was worthy of accolades. We all left feeling like winners.

There was something else that happened on Tuesday that touched my heart was well.  Right before the Polsky Awards I was notified that my friend Jason Davis had died that afternoon. I met Jason through his mother, Carla, who was a member of our Leadership Akron Class 29. Jason was an amazing vocalist and was featured as the musical guest at Love Akron’s Annual Breakfast in 2014, where he and his mother sang a beautiful duet together.  The song I requested they sing is “The Prayer.” The lyrics speak for themselves.

I pray you’ll be our eyes and watch us where we go.
And help us to be wise in times when we don’t know
Let this be our prayer when we lose our way
Lead us to the place guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe

I pray we’ll find your light
And hold it in our hearts.
When stars go out each night,
Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place, guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

Our loss is heaven’s gain, so they say, but it still hurts, and we feel his absence deeply. Losing a friend through death on Tuesday places the loss of the Cleveland Brown on Sunday in proper perspective. Someday we will join Jason in Heaven’s choir loft when the day of “losing” will be over.  Until that day, though, may we be a people who are both courageous and considerate; lovers of truth and lovers of people; followers of Jesus in both word and deed.  That’s what I call Win-Win!