Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ways to lose

There are two ways to lose at something.
  1. Losing because you play poorly/make mistakes/mess up
  2. Losing because the other person or team are 'just too good'.
It seems that most people would prefer to lose the second way.  'We did our best, they were just too good'.  This completely baffles me.  I would much prefer to lose the first way.  My thinking is that if I lose because the other team are just too good, there is nothing I could have done to change the outcome.  If, however, I lose because I made silly mistakes, I know that next time I could win.

I hate the powerlessness of losing to a team who are 'just too good'.  If I make mistakes, I only have myself to blame, and I can deal with that.  It is in my power to change that.

Similarly, I prefer to lose because I make mistakes rather than because a team-mate makes mistakes.  I have very limited power over my team-mate and can do a limited amount to help him/her improve.  I have much more power over myself and my own improvement.

Everyone I've spoken to has said they prefer to lose the second way.  Is there anyone out there who agrees with me?


Unknown said...

I prefer winning

Joe said...

Wholeheartedly! For all the same reasons! I am surprised anyone would prefer to lose the second's a messed up world out there.

James Doc said...

Can you expand the difference to me... in my mind they overlap; 'the other team is too good' implies to me that they did not make the mistakes that your team did... thoughts?

Unknown said...

Sometimes both teams play very well, but one just has more quality. E.g. Man Utd beating some non-league team that had a good game but just weren't good enough.
Contrast with Man Utd v Chelsea and Chelsea, although generally an excellent team, have a shocker and make loads of mistakes.
I'd rather be in Chelsea's position.

Joe said...

At the risk of opening a can of worms...perhaps it is the difference between perfectionists and pragmatists?

The perfectionist sees the contest as the "be all and end all" and seeks satisfaction in knowing they did the best they could. Even if they didn't win, they executed their perfect performance.

Real men, or "pragmatists", see every engagement as a glorified training exercise. Winning is such sweet glory, but the real value is using the opportunity to progress to achieving greatness.

To a ma..I mean "pragmatist" the phrase "you did the best you could" is deeply patronising insulting.

Unknown said...

I don't think so. Because I think most people are pragmatists, but most people seem to be happy losing while playing their best.

I think it might be more about competitiveness.
For someone who prioritises the taking part over the winning, playing their best is the most important thing. For someone who prioritises the winning, playing their best is meaningless if they lose (I am one of these people).

There is probably a spectrum between prioritising the taking part and prioritising the winning, at somewhere along that spectrum (I expect quite near the winning end), you get people like me, for whom losing with no way to change the outcome is difficult to handle.

Also, I don't understand your final paragraph - can you clarify please?

Matt said...

If you played your best but still lost that is your best at that moment in time. It doesn't mean you cannot improve. You could be happy losing knowing you played your best and go away and train more so that you improve and win next time. I think training to improve is slightly different from not making mistakes.

Unknown said...

I agree. Improvement is always possible in the future. The situation I'm describing is the contrast between being able to do nothing to change the outcome despite playing your best and the knowledge that it was only your mistakes that caused the loss and that you had power to change that.
The crux of the argument is the idea of powerlessness to change the outcome.

Joe said...

By way of explaining my last paragraph, as somebody towards your end of the spectrum, no matter how you define it, I find there is nothing more infuriating than somebody putting their hand on my shoulder and saying "Oh well, you did the best you could" - who are they to decide where my limits are! I know I'm capable of being the best at whatever I put my mind to, so "my best" is to win. The powerlessness of playing a "perfect game" and still losing is frustrating enough without somebody telling me I couldn't have done better!

I think actually James makes a fair point, that this all presupposes that "quality of player" and "mistakes made" are independent of each other. Arguably, mistakes are just a manifestation of poor judgement, which is a component of being a lower standard player. Discuss.

Unknown said...

I see.
I agree about the patronising thing, but I'm not talking about someone else saying 'oh well, you did the best you could'. I'm talking about when I know I did the best I could. But I agree that can be patronising.

There is a link between quality of player and mistakes made, but only to an extent.
I would argue that no matter how well Durham City play, a moderate to low performance from Man Utd (by their own high standards) would still be enough to win.
To look at it another way, take the Settlers of Catan. Sometimes I play a game and I know I haven't made any mistakes, I've used my cards and pieces to maximum effect, I've played really well...but I haven't won. Maybe because of bad luck or because other because players have ganged up on me. This frustrates me a lot more than losing because I've made silly mistakes.