If we can’t be the best, are we just wasting our time? For
generations, my family’s motto has been “Second place is just a nice name for
first loser”. I was taught that life is one big competition, and my family
prizes academic and extracurricular achievements above everything. School is
supposed to be a place of achievement. We work hard to score the highest
grades. We join music clubs, academic decathlons, sport and debate teams, and
we compete to win. During national exams, we compete to get into the best secondary
schools, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities. After our school life
ends, we compete for the best jobs and to earn the highest incomes. Even this
essay is part of a competition to determine who is worthy of a coveted spot in
this school. We are always striving to be number one. However, in every
competition, there must be a loser. Not everyone can win.

So, if ten students compete in a chess tournament, and only
one wins, are the other nine students losers? Were their hard work, dedication,
and efforts worthless? Competition is about comparing people and judging who is
the best. According to the rules, whoever wins is a success, and everyone else
loses. But recently I had to re-evaluate what it meant to be a winner. I
started thinking about success differently. Winning is part effort and part
luck. How well the other competitors perform, talent, how the judges think and
their preconceived perceptions, that’s luck. Luck is totally out of our control,
but what we can control is our effort. I used to think that reward time is
after the competition, when they hand out the trophies, medals and certificates.
Only now do I see that reward time is now. It is the thrill of competing, of
showing others what I’ve got. Only now do I realise that if I’m focused on what
I’m doing, if I did my best and had fun doing it, I’m a success.

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Perhaps there is a deeper, more vital lesson to learn here,
a lesson that can’t be graded or measured. Looking back, my greatest accomplishment
in school so far had nothing to do with scoring the highest grades or winning
the most trophies. I learned how to use my own judgement instead of following
others blindly, to judge myself based on my own standards. I learned to find my
own voice, to speak my own truth. I have no trophies or awards to show for
these achievements, yet these achievements can’t be taken away by failure. In
my future, I know I will have both wins and losses, good times and bad. But if
I give my all in everything I do, I can’t go wrong. We can’t always be the
best, but that doesn’t mean that our time was squandered. Our efforts are still
valid, and we can still be proud of ourselves.

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I'm Joan!

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