Is success and mastery the same thing? Why is a bronze medalist more happier than a silver medalist. Ted speaker Sarah Lewis has the answers in her presentation asking us to “Embrace the near win”
What is the difference between success and mastery
Sarah’s first job as an art historian at the Museum of Modern Art defined how she would forever perceive success. Sarah was working in an exhibit for artist Elizabeth Murray. Sarah, who was captivated by the work, was stunned to hear the artist express her disappointment at some pieces, she thought that they didn’t quite hit the mark.
That conversation, changed everything for Sarah. “In that moment, my view of success and creativity changed. I realized that success is a moment, but what we’re always celebrating is creativity and mastery. We often want the moment of completion, but what really propels us is the unfinished.”
So success is fleeting, its outcome oriented, it’s ingrained in a moment of achievement. Mastery however, is ongoing and consistent. It’s the ongoing pursuit of growth and pushing yourself further and knowing that you could reach these moments of success time and time again.
Why bronze medalists are happier than silver medalists
An interesting analogy that Sarah used had to discuss the importance of near-wins had to do with some research about the mindsets of olympic medalists. The bronze medalists are typically more happier than the silver medalist! Really? This little statistic had me puzzled. I would much rather win second place than third place – it just makes common sense, but, and here’s the kicker, does it make physiological sense?
So I tried to put myself in the shoes of these olympic medalists. I am athletically challenged, so living vicariously through this analogy is the closest I will ever get to a sporting medal. No near-wins for me here, more like remote-wins, but I digress. I found myself seeing were Sarah and this research study was coming from.
What I realised was that if I scraped in third place I would have been so thankful for just making it in to the top three and not missing out on a medal all together that I wouldn’t have been as bummed out that I missed out on gold.
If I picked up a silver-medal I would still have been pretty stoked but a voice in my head would have been disappointed that gold was so close. It was a near-win and with gold being so close to my grasp I probably would have left that podium with laser-like focus chanting ‘gold is mine’ gold is mine’ ‘gold is mine’
Now obviously I’m sure any medalist would be happy just to place and achieve a medal but that near-win has the potential to be the fuel to really make someone a gold-class athlete. Just like Markus Zusak sang the praises of failure being a gift in his Tedx talk “The Failurist” Sarah too think that we need to value near wins for what they truly are and that is powerful motivators in the pursuit of mastery.