Which are you? A Winner or a Learner?

It can be very shocking to hear that you got 3rd place in a speech contest that you thought you had done a good job. It was for me. I was even beat by two non-native speakers. Too put it mildly, it was very irritating.  What is one to do?
 
The most obvious choice is to sulk, to blame the judges for not being competent or not having good grasp of the English language. I could have also blamed my bad luck for catching a cold at the wrong time. I could have blamed a lot of things. But that would not get me anywhere, would it? No, I have to choose between being a Loser or being a Learner.
 
In Toastmasters in Japan it is contest season. The season where a lot of people compete and find out how good of speaker they are. As in any contest there can only be one 1st place contestant. Obviously, there can only be one ultimate winner. But does there have a to be a lot of losers? No, not really.
 
One big reason that many people do not participate in contests is the fear of looking like a loser. As I said before, a loser is somebody who blames an external force and doesn`t change. A loser doesn`t reflect on anything he did or didn`t do that caused him to lose. But, if you avoid those things are you really a loser? I think not.
 
That is why I look at contest as a possibility to win or learn.  If I win then I have positive feedback that I have been doing the right thing. If am reflective enough to know why I won then that is much better. But If I did not win, then I really need to reflect on what went wrong and figure out how to fix it.
 
Many of us were not brilliant speakers at the very beginning. I pretty sure that many of us were not good bicyclists either. But in the case of bicycles, many of us tried and tried and tried until we could ride a bicycle without falling over.  I don`t think there many who quit because they thought they were not cut out for bicycling or because they had a horrible accident.

In my own personal case I have crashed head first, scrapped many knees etc. when learning to ride a bicycle.  This was not just as a kid, but as an adult when I was practicing with a street bicycle with clip-in peddles. I had to learn how to easily get on and off a bicycle without falling and injuring myself.
 
But for something as complex as speaking it can sometimes feel different. Maybe you forgot a lot of your lines, or the speech was not as well received as you had hoped. Maybe you lost a speech contest that you thought you could win. In those cases, you may think that perhaps you were not cut out for doing speaking. You could stop. You could stop peddling. But should you?
 
You should move on. People who move on are learners. They do not blame others for their circumstances. They talk a cold hard look at what happen. Analyze why they did not succeed and then work on a new hypothesis of what could work.
 
The second try may not work. It may be as big a failure as the first one. But trying one thing at a time you and slowly reduce mistakes and then eventually create a winning presentation.
 
However, doing it by yourself can be very time consuming. I read a lot of books and the thinking of a lot of brilliant people helps put me in the right direction faster than I could do if I had to all of the thinking by myself. I don`t simple read, but take notes, reword thoughts, and figure out how to implement those idea in my life.
 
Also, I also try to get feedback from people as much as possible. Toastmasters is a great way to get feedback about your presentation during their regular meeting. But even if there isn`t a meeting, I feel it is good to ask people what they thought of your work and what could be done to make it better.
 
Sometimes the advice can hurt. Sometimes you don`t even understand just where the advice is coming from. Sometime you don`t even understand the meaning of the advice until a good deal later. That is life.
 
Many of think that in any contest there are winners or losers. I respectfully disagree. If someone has a bad attitude, they may be a loser. But, for most there are just winners and learners.  The winners may have won that round. But, the learners will go back. They will reflect on what they could do differently. They will work on their abilities and get back into the game and eventually win. Life is simply a repetition of wining and learning. Both are a lot fun. Don`t you think?