What I’ve Learned from Coming In Last

A few weeks ago I went on a beautiful group bike trip. I headed out near the front of the pack and within a half-hour, all 34 other riders had passed me and I was last in line. It didn’t bother me at all. I am pretty slow but I was not struggling, just taking my time. I paused to look at a sparkling river, rolled slowly past interesting houses, stopped at the beach. I’ve had a lot of practice being last…and I’m fine with it.

When I was a kid I tried lots of activities. I was a mediocre team bowler. I ran cross-country and routinely came in last. My sporty dad would gamely cheer me on as the winners were leaving the park with their medals. I’ve had fun but I’ve never been particularly fast or physically elegant…and I was a liability on a team.  In junior high when I told our coach that I’d have to miss a basketball game she likened the effect on the team to taking a teaspoon of water out of a bucket. Ouch! …way to wreck a girl’s confidence, Ms. Anderson! Fortunately…. it didn’t.    

My swimming and cycling adventures give the impression that I am athletic. I’m not….and that’s not false modesty. When I went on my first long-distance swim trip I was terrified of being the oldest and slowest. I trained for months in preparation. On the very first day, my worst fears were realized – I was the slowest. So – what could I do? I decided to just be happy for the experience – swimming in the blue waters, trying really hard to keep up in the waves, in a little pod of slow-swimmers, for hours every day. What an adventure! How could this feel like a failure? It didn’t. It was a triumph just to do it.  

So – why deprive yourself of the chance to do something you aren’t good at? Why let fear of not being good defeat you? The accomplishment is in the trying and the experience. This could be in taking a chance on love, moving, changing careers. We don’t always need to be the best. The winning is in trying. The winning is in allowing ourselves to experience new things. We lose only when we let our fears hold us back.

Come on – what do you want to try?