What it means to win

  • The paradox of winning: winning can bring envy and jealousy, while the process of trying to do something is more shared.
  • Everyone understands and identifies with those who try, but victory is divisive and stirs up mixed feelings.
  • Winners shift boundaries and break new ground, even if they are not always immediately understood or appreciated.


I read something Drake said. He said “Winning is problematic. People like you more when you are working toward something, not when you have it.”

Drake starts from a paradox and that is that winning-something we all want-is a problem. Of course, you might think, easy to say for someone like him who has sold more records than inhabitants on planet Earth (if you didn’t know-and it is your sacrosanct right not to know-Drake is a very famous and very successful hip hop singer): when you know full well what it means to win, you may as well have the luxury of pontificating about how exhausting it is to bear the burden of victory, kind of like those billionaires who tell you that okay the wealth and the 200-meter boats and the 28 houses around the world but “I don’t have a private life anymore and I don’t trust human relationships.” “Deal with it,” we might reply.

However, if we isolate the words, we can agree that they contain great truth, regardless of who said them.

The point is not to win

Success and victory have always brought with them companions that everyone would do without: envy, jealousy, suspicion.
“He won because he doesn’t work and has plenty of time to train.” “Well, easy, with all that money you can afford the best players/trainers/tools.” Ever heard these phrases?

The unwritten rule of victory is that it is always followed by attempts to circumscribe it, belittle it, devalue it.

It is a very human reaction and should not necessarily be condemned but rather understood. It should be avoided, it is understood, however, understanding the mechanisms that govern it helps to understand the reasons for it.


To return to Drake’s words, “people like you best when you’re trying, not when you’ve succeeded.” The identification mechanism intervenes at the stage when a great force of the human soul is expressed, which is identification, in this case expressed as sharing an experience.

Regardless of the goal, we all know what it means to “try.” We’ve all tried to do something we didn’t know how to do, ever since we learned to walk, to say how natural the feeling of “trying” is for us. Of course, as children we did not experience this in the social dimension: we did not even know that other people existed, if you exclude parents, brothers, sisters and relatives. Our idea of society was the family, and then, to be honest, we couldn’t even think that being able to do anything had anything to do with having to or being able to prove it to anyone.
When we started walking we saw that everyone was smiling and crying with joy, and to be honest, we don’t even remember it because it happened at a stage in our lives of which we retain no memories.

However, humanity is made up of social animals, and from a certain point on, what you do is displayed on a much larger stage than your family: it becomes public.

They are the first grades in school, the first sports achievements, work successes or personal and professional failures.

All of these experiences, sporting or otherwise, are roughly composed of two phases: the process and the outcome. The process is what brings us to the outcome, put very simply.
In our case, the process is athletic preparation, and the outcome is the result of the competition for which one has prepared.

In the process anyone can be identified, both those who try and those who do not even dare. Everyone knows what we are talking about.
The victorious outcome is reserved for only a very few people, usually one or a group, in the case of a team. To visualize the concept, imagine a cone: the cone (as if it were the ice cream cone!) contains many things but there is only one at the tip. Only one person or team can win, while so many can try.

We can all identify in the contents of the cone; standing exactly on the tip, alone and victorious, is an experience reserved for very few.

Here is where the identification mechanism that leads human beings to understand, help and share fails. Mischievous other feelings arise: envy and jealousy, above all. “Why him and not me?” The ways in which these criticisms are expressed are then those already mentioned: belittling, circumscribing, finding justifications that take away the value and importance of victory.

Whoever wins, wins for everyone

In short, the question lies in these terms: why is it that at one stage of the journey we identify with those who are trying and at the culmination, on the other hand, we often disassociate? Or, in other words, why is sharing and understanding reserved only for the loser?

If you notice consoling those who lost is much easier and more natural than praising those who win. Indeed, supporting in defeat makes those who do so feel better because it gratifies and ennobles them to the community (“What nice words he found for the loser,” “What sensitivity in supporting the loser in a difficult time”). Similarly, praising those who win exposes suspicion of ulterior motives and not a desire to express sincere joy at the outcome.
This is not always the case, mind you: if your team wins, you celebrate it sincerely and joyfully, without being able to be misunderstood in any way.
Why does this happen? Because in this case victory is already a social issue: after all, we are talking about the team of a city or, sometimes, an entire nation: the level has already shifted from the individual to the collective.
If, on the other hand, the issue remains more individual, then the matter becomes more complicated, or rather suffers more from individual envy and jealousy.

I repeat: this is not necessarily always the case, and this is not a rule that is always true. There are those who spontaneously and continuously rejoice over the successes of friends or even strangers, but there are also those who fail to do so and, on the contrary, resort to suspicion, denigration and other unpleasant activities.

In the end, we are human, and the range of feelings we can experience is very wide. We can sincerely rejoice for those who win, or we can be envious of them but not manifest it, or, finally, we can belittle others’ achievements. How many things we can do, how many emotions we can feel and then decide to manifest or not.

Beyond how we behave, however, it remains true that it is easier to identify with those who try than with those who succeed. Why does this happen? Because at the stage of trial and preparation for something every option is open: the outcome may be success or failure but, after all, everyone can try. At the outcome stage, the results are drawn: either you win or you lose, and the verdict is rendered.
In short, the process unites, the outcome divides. Not always but often.

As mentioned, it happens by the very nature of the two phases and because we are social animals: we accept who is in the group but when someone emerges from the group they also distance themselves from it. He is no longer one among many but one over all. The best one.

The social function of victory

How do you get out of it? With some effort and trying to understand what those who win are for, because those who emerge have a social function, even if they seem to suddenly become “different” from the group.

Those who win move boundaries, those who win break new ground.

Of course, it happens in an absolute sense, it is clear that in detail who wins a minor race does not particularly contribute to the advancement of human fortunes. It is done by those who accomplish truly outstanding feats.
It is not necessarily that these people are understood by their contemporaries, and it is also not necessarily that these events affect only those who win sports competitions or sell the most records. Think of how many explorers have been treated as eccentric individuals risking their lives for no apparent reason.

This is what happens to those who move human boundaries, that is, those who – in a sense – win: they are not always understood by others, they are often mocked and mistreated. Then, one day they are understood in their greatness.
It is normal, it happens, it would be better if it did not happen as often as it does but who knows, someday we may realize that the outcome of the process deserves the same emotional participation as the process itself. Without being distracted by whether it is a victory or not. Some winners and winners do it for themselves but also for all of us.


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