Second Best Is Good Enough

The other day I received a flyer through my door.  It was from a local estate agent telling me they had sold a house.  “Well look at you, cupcake, aren’t you doing well for yourself.”  Isn’t that your entire reason for existing?  What next?  An email from the chippy when they sell a particularly well battered cod, or a text from the barber when another shaved head hits the streets?

It seems we are living in an age where we are all expected to broadcast our achievements from the nearest rooftop – and the louder the better.  We have an abundance of self-publicity tools at our disposal.  Social media and mobile technology have added to the good old fashioned leaflet, to make self publicity so much easier to deliver.  Once the province of stars with agents, now anyone with access to the internet can promote their achievements – however trivial or inconsequential.  And not only can we do it, we’re encouraged to do it, and thanks to our American cousins who seem to take to this much more easily and comfortably than us more restrained Brits, we’re expected to do it in the most strident terms possible.  The more superlatives we can get in there the better – the best, the fastest, the cheapest, the most successful etc.   I’m reminded of a visit to Dubai many years ago when a colleague and I were talking about the Emirate’s obsession with everything having to be the tallest, biggest, most expensive etc. and I swear we looked out of the taxi window and saw a supermarket called SafestWay.  You can’t beat that – or can you?  So as a result, we’re all awesome and we should tell everyone as often as possible until we all start believing it.

Well guess what?  I’ve never been awesome and I very much doubt I’m going to find something now that would merit that description of my achievements.  I’ve never been the best at anything – even when I’m on my own I often struggle to even be the best that I can be.  However good I am at something I know there are anywhere from thousands to millions of people who are better.  And I’m fine with that.  You hear people say how unfortunate a particular sportsman or woman was to be born in the era of another more successful sports star.  What?  To be born at a time when someone else was better?  Welcome to our world.  I’m reminded of how Jackie Charlton (an old footballer to our younger readers) must have felt to have won the old first division and a couple of European trophies with Leeds United, to have been capped more than 30 times for England and to have been part of the World Cup winning side we just will not stop going on about however long ago it was.  And yet Jackie wasn’t even the best footballer in his family.

Another common dismissive comment is ’First is first and second is nowhere’ or ’Nobody ever remembers who was second’.  It may be true that most people can not remember who were runners up in the Champions League Final in 2000, but I bet the Valencia fans can, especially as they were beaten on penalties in the final again the following year – and at that stage they had no idea Gary Neville was on his way to oversee their demise.

If you are the one who is second, third or even 300th in a big enough event, you’ll remember it because it matters to you and so it should, but feeling pressured into declaring the result somehow diminishes it a little.  Just completing a marathon is tough enough without feeling obliged to divulge your time – mainly to people who have little idea of what constitutes a good time for a below average plodder who’s getting on in years.  They may have an idea of the World Record time or the expected time for the winner but believe me that’s about as useful as getting concerned about your child who seems to be falling behind in achievements when compared to Mozart who wrote his first symphony at eight.

The London Marathon is a good example with only one winner but thousands of people who will remember the experience and will take pride in doing their best, however poor that is in comparison to thousands of others.  And I’d have no problem with them taking to social media to announce their achievement if they want to – although I’d think a leaflet through my door would be a little odd and somewhat excessive.  They just shouldn’t feel they are obliged to do so.  Their achievement is no less because they don’t tell as many people as possible.  After all, who is listening to all this self promotion?  Does anyone notice any more? Or does the attention only go to those who shout loudest and longest?  Perhaps noting has really changed other than the quantity of the shouting.  Good Luck to all runners – whatever your time – but I did it in …….

The Barefoot Bohemian

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