Friday, September 1, 2017

If You're Not First, You're Not Lost

Ricky Bobby is a winner.

He wins races, lucrative sponsorship deals and the hearts of adrenaline-pumping fans. A NASCAR champion who blazes through the screeching tarmac with daredevil manoeuvres that leave all others biting his dust-cloud. He throws tantrums like a spoilt kid whenever he loses - which rarely ever happens. Either he's standing tallest at the podium, or he's crashing against the wall. Such is the life of one whose credo is "If you ain't first, you're last!"

Thankfully, Ricky Bobby isn't real - he's a fictional character played by Will Ferrell in the epic comedy 'Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby'.

But sadly, his credo does ring true in our world today. If you don't score full A's in your exams, you won't get a spot at a top university. If you don't win gold, your name won't splash in tomorrow's headlines. If you don't land a smash hit, your songs won't be featured on the airwaves.

Life is indeed cruel. All the spoils of war go to the victor, none to the loser. If you're not first, you're last!

All I do is win, win, win...

If You're First, So What?

Some may say that's what competition is meant to do. To separate the winners from losers. The bad from good. The deserving and undeserving.

Except that it doesn't.

In any competition, luck and chance are always at play. So happen all the chapters you spotted came out in exams (and those you skipped didn't). So happen your closest rival caught a cold before the race. So happen your uncle works at a recording studio.

Winning is overrated. Winning is deceiving. Winning doesn't mean you're a winner.

Sadly, society celebrates winners - not those who came oh-so-close to winning and overcame insurmountable odds to reach as far as they could. People are too lazy to read beyond the headlines. So true grit and quality goes unnoticed.

And this is sad, because we reward winners excessively and ignore the losers unfairly.

If You're Not First, You Keep Losing And Drifting Further Behind

And the unfairness builds up.

By fluking your good results, you end up in a top university. There, you get taught by the top brains in the field. A degree from a top university looks good on the resume, regardless of your mediocre CGPA.

Spare some thought for your classmate who caught a cold before a critical exam, missed out by a single A, and ended up in an inferior university. No matter how well he does from then on, companies just don't look at him and treat him the same way. He'll always be a class below. He'll always have to work doubly - or triply - hard to gain the same kind of recognition and rewards you enjoy.

All because he caught a cold a day before the exam.

He should've known better, you may say. Why did he not take care of his health better?

He lived in a cramped apartment with parents who couldn't afford to fix the heater, that's why.

Yeah, life can be cruel as f**k that way.

Don't be like this loser, kids!

If You're Not First, It's Not The End

But life doesn't have to be this way.

If only society took the time and effort to read through the fine details, to distinguish between the true fighters and lucky bastards, to judge others by taking account all relevant factors, to appreciate that the line between winning and losing can often times be blurry...

... then life can be fairer to all, especially those born shorn of privileges.

Life can also be more efficient and exciting, too. Undeserving winners hogging the podium prevent forsaken losers from driving even faster and breaking more records - if only they were given the equal opportunity to succeed.

Humanity, as a whole, loses out when we crown the wrong champion. And therein lies the true tragedy of inequality. We could have bred true winners, if only we stop and looked harder beyond the A's, gold medals and smash hits.

If You're Not First, You Can Still Be Fifth

Halfway through the movie, Ricky Bobby realises his life motto is all but a cruel joke. He got it from his father Reese Bobby, who later confesses he was "high that day" when he blurted out those words. "That doesn't make any sense at all," the now-sobered-up Reese stares incredulously at his son, "you can be second, third, fourth... hell, you can even be fifth!"

Yes, we can even be fifth. It's no failure finishing fifth.

Ricky Bobby isn't real. But his cautionary ballad is as real as the story of our own fragile lives.

So remember, kids. If you're not first, you're NOT lost....

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