But I Didn’t Win…

To hear Sarah sing… 
My grandma, who we called Biji, loved buying lottery tickets. I kid you not. When a woman asks for lottery tickets instead of flowers for her funeral service, you know the love runs deep. So my mom handed out scratch-offs to each of us grand kids when we arrived back home after saying our farewells. I think one ticket out of twenty won $50. But the remainder of the $200 worth of tickets were duds.

According to my husband who did a little research for his Facing Fear Talk, a person is more likely to be hit by lightening than win the lottery. Hmmmm? So what makes a person walk into the convenience store, slap down his or her cash, and lose. But come again, day after day, and do it again.

I’m not talking about addiction today. I have no intention of commenting on the morality of gambling. I’m simply addressing the human innate desire to win. If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have it. We all like to win.But as far as I know, even when the announcers of a competition stand on stage and sandwich the winning names between the “We’re all winners here today,” spiel, you know deep down inside that if your name isn’t called, [Brace yourself for a major NEWS FLASH!!] you did not win. In fact, it’s okay to say the words…Deep breath…

I lost.

Our daughters (three of them on this particular occasion) participated in a slightly scaled down America’s Got Talent this past weekend. Okay. Really scaled down. No national coverage. An audience of about four hundred. And only thirteen acts and no commercials. Two of them did a solo and one sang a duet with one of her best friends. And each of them rocked it. And I’m not just saying that cuz I’m the mom!

But the one that stole the show was our four year old. Sarah was the youngest of the participants, the next oldest an eight year old, and Sarah decided on her own about a month ago that she wanted to sing. She picked the song. She even told me, “Mom. I can sing by myself. I don’t have stage fright.”

I didn’t even know she knew what ‘stage fright’ was.

So I said, “Okay. Let’s do this.” And we began practicing daily, until she nailed the words and the tune.

Two days before show time, Sarah came up to me and said, “Mommy. I think I’m gonna win, because I’m the cutest.”

This girl does not have a confidence problem. To say the least. I smiled and although a little part of me knew there was some truth in the statement (the part about her cuteness!) I told her with my best serious mommy tone. “Sarah. You can’t win just by being cute. You have to sing. And sing well. Okay?”

“Okay Mommy.” And off she trotted to practice her twirls and poses for the big day. All inspired from a Dora coloring book. I kid you not. At one point, she had fifteen pages ripped out, all on the floor, surrounding her living room make shift stage. Dora’s cartoon body covered every paper, in different dance poses and positions. And Sarah’s choreography comprised of imitating each pose before her song was over.

All excited to show me her moves, she asked me to pretend I was the emcee and introduce her so she could practice her song/dance routine.

“And now, please welcome the lovely *couch beating drum roll* Sarrrrrah Paulus!”

Turned out we had to scratch the dance moves. It was too difficult to hold the microphone, dance and sing with the needed coordination to keep the sound audible and keep from tripping or falling and subsequently giggling and forgetting the words. So on her own, Sarah revamped her piece to standing still and singing while bopping up and down. Her oldest sister suggested to tone down the bopping a notch to keep her voice from sounding too choppy. So in the end, Sarah decided to keep it simple. One or two actions to illustrate the lyrics and just sing her heart out.

Which she did. And it was a sight to see. And music to my ears. And a straight shot to my heart. Of a memory neither hubby nor I will ever forget.

So when the time came for the voting, the count, and the announcement, I hit record on the camcorder to capture the moment when the emcee would call one of my girls’ names. I mean, with three out of thirteen acts having a Paulus in them, the odds were ever in our favor. Third. Then Second. Then the drum roll *piano low note actually* right before first place was announced. And then the name. And. It. Was.


A Paulus girl.

I swallowed my pride and exed the power on the camcorder. I looked at little Sarah’s face on stage, standing in the row of participants, and her lip was quivering. She was on the brink of tears. But she didn’t cry. She even clapped when the audience burst out in cheers and applause over the very deserving Cello/violin duet by a sister-brother team.

We didn’t win. Sigh.

Come to find out that night that two of my writing contest results were in and posted on the web. And like a sequel to a movie that came out too soon. I didn’t win either.

So as hubby walked back upstairs Sunday morning, I greeted him with the words, “I didn’t win.”

“But you got fifth place. Honorable mention. You placed. You’re still a finalist.”

“But. I didn’t win.” I repeated.

He tried to console me with words that were true and encouraging, but at that moment. I just needed to process. The fact. That…I. Did. Not. Win.

As I opened up the comments from one of the judges that critiqued my work, the tears began to flow. I was taken aback by the generous words of encouragement that affirmed my dream to be a writer. I’d include them but I don’t think I’m allowed to. Maybe that’s a good thing. I think they were meant for just my eyes. For my heart. For my spirit.

“Mommy. Are you crying because you’re happy, or because you’re sad?” My eldest asked when I tried to explain the email to my family through my weeping.

I settled on one word to sum it up. “Both.”

What I love about contests is they force you to prepare. They give you a deadline. And they give you competition. And competition makes you better. It raises the bar. Forces you to remember that you can always improve your art. Your skill. Your product.

But the thing to remember about contests, is that they do not cancel out your talent or your dreams, just because you don’t win. Sarah can still sing amazingly for a four year old. She is off to a great start. No one would argue with that. And I’m sure the next time she gets up on stage, she’ll be a little less nervous and a little more prepared. Experience is possibly life’s greatest teacher.

And even if I didn’t win a writing contest this year, this doesn’t cancel the fact that I love to write. But even more than love. I was made to write. I’m supposed to write.

I more than appreciated what Allen Arnold said at the ACFW writing conference I attended last year. “If you’re here today, you’re a writer, and you’re supposed to write. Now whether you’re meant to write for an audience of one, just for yourself, or for a million readers—that is to be determined.”

Michael Hyatt, in his new book Platform, suggests that the biggest roadblock to success is fear. “We must become courageous. This is a personal, psychological bridge we need to cross. What we want to create—that wow experience—is on the other side of the ravine. There’s no other way to get there from here.”

*Hyatt, Michael (2012-05-22). Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World (Kindle Locations 635-636). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

So I say to you all out there who have a dream, a gift, a talent, or a product. And you’re discouraged about the lost contest, slow progress, or decreased sales. Don’t give up. Improve your skill. Tweak your product. Seek wisdom from those who have succeeded. And get back in the race. 

Don’t live life like the NY Lotto. Investing where there’s little hope of return and the results are left to total chance.

Life’s too short to not be lived.

My high school history teacher used to ask the question daily, “Hey kids, what do you think—is there life after birth?”

Answer: Only if you choose to live. And take risks. And remember to breathe. Breathing is good.

**What about you? Was there a time when you didn’t get the result you were aiming for? How did that experience shape or inspire you? 

**If you LIKED this POST, you MIGHT also LIKE:

“Wait for it…Wait for it…”
“What’s on Your Bucket List?”
“How Do You Get There From Here?”

Dive Into Another Waterfall:

4 thoughts on “But I Didn’t Win…

  1. <3 This post, Raj! You are raising such lovely winners. And I died laughing that your grandmother had lottery tickets after the funeral. She had to have been a kindred spirit of my Gram's - or maybe it was their trusting generation? <3 <3 <3

  2. What a good posting, Raj! I hate it that you didn’t win. I also didn’t even place in one of my contests recently, and the loss stings. But the question is not why did I lose but what am I going to do with this loss? There’s a choice to make.
    Sounds to me like you’ve made the right choice. Hang in there and keep writing! You have what it takes! :) Love you.