Sunday, December 6, 2009
Recently, I had the great pleasure of attending a hockey game with a friend. We observed that one team seemed a little bit faster on the ice, slightly more in control of the puck, and generally more in sync with one another as a team. One of us made a comment about rooting for the underdog, and I got to thinking about why we would be reluctant to cheer on the team we perceived to be better prepared for the game.
Underdogs are favorite topics of stories on television and film, but I think we have developed a cultural mythology about winners as well. While the underdogs are typically likable, capable people who have just been overlooked or have had a run of bad luck, winners are quite different creatures. Winners must be cheating to do so well. To be that successful, they must have stepped on a lot of other people and broken a lot of rules. Successful people must be calculating, selfish, and uncaring, or else they wouldn't have gotten where they are.
This is, of course, hogwash. Sure, some people who are successful have done some less than honorable things, but by and large, the people who succeed are the ones most capable and determined to do so. I've been carrying around the other definition for awhile, and it hasn't served me very well at all. Why would I want to be successful if it would just mean that other people would perceive me on some level as a selfish and uncaring cheater?
But an interesting thing happened at the end of the hockey game. The best prepared team (by our observation at least) won the game. It wasn't Hollywood, but it made perfect sense in reality. Underdogs may be capable of doing great things, but successful people are willing to live out their capability. Somewhere along the way, I learned that successful people must have done something wrong. The premise might make for great movies, but it doesn't really serve me in the reality of my life.