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Positively Beautiful: Derby teaches lessons on gracious winning, noble losing

Grant's face was twisted into a tight little ball of disappointment. He had just received a second-place trophy for his age group at the Pinewood Derby. The premise? Carve a miniature wheeled car out of a piece of wood, line it up with the other ...

Grant's forced smile didn't quite cover up his disappointment with his second-place finish at the Pinewood Derby. Photo by Dr. Susan Mathison / Special to The Forum
Grant's forced smile didn't quite cover up his disappointment with his second-place finish at the Pinewood Derby. Photo by Dr. Susan Mathison / Special to The Forum

Grant's face was twisted into a tight little ball of disappointment.

He had just received a second-place trophy for his age group at the Pinewood Derby.

The premise? Carve a miniature wheeled car out of a piece of wood, line it up with the other cars, and see whose car races the fastest.

Grant's car was a minimalist beauty, painted bright yellow but so layered with graphite that it looked like sleek stainless steel. It zoomed fast, but not the fastest.

He was not pleased with his second-place finish. It took about 10 takes and five minutes of cajoling to capture a photo with his trophy. Even then, his forced smile didn't quite cover his discouragement.

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Seeing his frustration, I recognized one of those teachable moments, an opportunity to help my son learn an important lesson about graciousness, character and sportsmanship.

The truth is that "winning" is a concept that so many of us struggle with, myself included.

We all want to win. In some instances, we need to win.

We want to win the patient, win the client, win the opportunity, win the chance to speak on stage. We want to succeed. Earn a living. Make an impact. Nobody wants to feel like they are living a "second-place life."

But what does "winning" mean, exactly?

After scouring the Internet for quotes and definitions, the one that rings truest to me is a statement that doesn't include the word "winning" at all, but defines it nonetheless.

"Set peace of mind as your highest goal, and organize your life around it."-Brian Tracy

To me, attaining that precious emotional state, peace of mind, is the definition of winning.

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If you can enter into a competition, a conversation, a relationship, a creative project or a business venture and walk away knowing, "I truly gave my personal best, I regret nothing, I feel at peace," then you have won.

What is more precious that satisfaction, contentment and peace of mind?

No external trophy or ribbon can give you peace of mind-or take it away. It's an inside job.

That is what I tried to explain to my son amidst chattering kids and miniature cars.

He got to spend fun time with his dad working on the project. He got to make many trips to the Boy Scout store and the hardware store. He got to work with cool tools. He got to hang with his Tiger den and watch the thrilling races. He got to be happy for his friend who won. He got to try his best.

We're still working on these lessons, and likely will be for a long time.

First, second or last. Triumph or "better luck next time."

Peace of mind and no regrets means you have won.

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Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com. Email her at info@catalystmedicalcenter.com .

Grant's forced smile didn't quite cover up his disappointment with his second-place finish at the Pinewood Derby. Photo by Dr. Susan Mathison / Special to The Forum
Susan Mathison

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