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Essay: "Winners and Losers"

by Mikhail Markhasev
Winners and Losers

I remember reading about Thomas Edison, how the great inventor, prior to making the light bulb that worked, has failed close to a two thousand times. When asked about it, he replied that he hadn't failed, but only discovered two thousand ways in which a light bulb wouldn't work. Someone says that winning isn't everything, but the only thing. Yet how do we define that "only thing" if it is as simple as being the opposite of losing? A defeat for one is a step towards victory for another. Again, who is in a position to determine winners and losers? Does success define a winner or failure a loser? Certainly, we all have a criterion by which we measure these matters, but it's clear that there's more to it than our perception of things.

In general terms, winning means gaining something and a winner is seen as victorious, captivating. A loser, on the other hand, is usually marked by failures and defeats. Interestingly enough, in my Webster's New Explorer Dictionary and Thesaurus, a "convict" is a synonym for a loser. The definition is given by a society where money is God, power is an idol, and honor is given to those who ascent the ladder of success by stepping on those beneath them. The dictionary doesn't explain if a convict is still a "loser" if he was wrongly convicted or if he was convicted for saying the right thing (as was the case with many "losers" who later were magically turned into "winners" by the rise of history and a change of opinion). At the same token, is one still a "winner" if the success comes at the price of one's dignity or is attained by shameful means?

Life is a journey, and only when it is complete and the final destination is reached can the title be determined. A winner today can easily become a loser tomorrow and it is not about whom we are, but who we're seeking to become. Each day, we choose our own path, and true achievement isn't what we possess, but what we've overcome to attain it. It's important to be on the right track- even if it means being on the losing side. "Many persons have a wrong idea about what constitutes true happiness," said Helen Keller, "It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." It's not about finishing first, but making it to the finish line in spite of the obstacles and personal stumbling.

"Without struggle there is no progress," said Frederick Douglass. The greatest struggle is the one we face within ourselves and against ourselves. The greatest victory is over oneself for the sake of others. A winner isn't someone who doesn't know a failure, but who overcomes his failures. And a loser isn't the one who fails while trying, but who fails to try at all.

I believe that we all lose when we fail to use what we have, or take for granted whatever opportunities we're given. I believe that we win when refusing to compromise in principle, when we take a stand in something good- even if it means suffering a loss in privilege or benefits. I've been a loser on many occasions, often many times a day, but that's not who I want to be. Every day each of us inches closer and closer to becoming a winner or a loser at the end of our journey. Ultimately, the difference isn't measured by success or failure, but in refusing to accept failure as the final outcome.

-Mikhail Markhasev