Winners and losers |

Winners and losers

Sometimes in life we will read words of wisdom or come across an old saying or aphorism that conveys a message or general truth that resonates with us. At times they’re light-hearted – “Don’t tug on Superman’s cape” or “Don’t spit into the wind.” But sometimes they’re not. Some can be rather pithy.

If we probe our memory banks, I’m certain that we can all come up with a few. However, the essence of these sayings is to let us know that when we violate life’s rules, we’re going to get hurt, make fools of ourselves, lose something, or possibly all of the above.

The other day I came across a fun little book written in the late “60s by one of my favorite writers, Sydney J. Harris. Mr. Harris was a syndicated columnist for the old Chicago Sun-Times. Mr. Harris had such a unique way with words that he could make his readers say, “Gee, that’s how I felt. I just couldn’t express it that way.”

You too may find Mr. Harris’ comments about winners and losers thoughtful and to the point. And if you’re like me, you may even find an “aha!” or two in the following aphorisms written over 35 years ago:

1. A winner makes commitments. A loser makes promises.

2. When a winner makes a mistake he says, “I was wrong.” When a loser makes a mistake, he says “it wasn’t my fault.”

3. A winner knows what to fight for and what to compromise on. A loser compromises on what he shouldn’t and fights for what isn’t worth fighting about.

4. A winner shows he’s sorry by making up for it. A loser says, “I’m sorry,” but does the same thing the next time.

5. A winner would rather be admired than liked, but would prefer both. A loser would rather be liked than admired, and is even willing to pay the price of mild contempt for it.

6. A winner listens. A loser sits and waits until it’s his turn to talk.

7. A winner says, “There ought to be a better way of doing it.” A loser says, “That’s the way it’s always been done here.”

8. A winner respects those who are superior to him and tries to learn something from them. A loser resents those who are superior to him, and tries to find chinks in their armor.

9. A winner paces himself. A loser has only two speeds – hysterical and lethargic.

10. A winner has a healthy appreciation for his abilities and a keen awareness of his limitations. A loser is oblivious to both his true abilities and his true limitations.

11. A winner takes a big problem and separates it into smaller parts so it can be more easily manipulated. A loser takes a lot of little problems and rolls them all together until they are unsolvable.

12. A winner focuses. A loser sprays.

13. A winner tries to never hurt people, and does so only rarely when it serves a higher purpose. A loser never wants to hurt people intentionally, but does so all the time even without knowing it.

14. A winner is sensitive to the atmosphere around him. A loser is sensitive to only his own feelings.

15. A winner stops talking when he has made his point. A loser keeps talking until he’s blunted his point.

16. A loser blames politics and favoritism for his failures. A winner would rather blame himself than others, but he doesn’t waste much time on any kind of blame.

17. A loser is afraid to acknowledge his defects to himself or others. A winner is aware that his defects are a part of the same central system as his assets, and while he tries to diminish their effect, he never denies their influence.

18. A loser feels cheated if he gives more than he gets. A winner feels that he is simply building up credit for the future.

19. A loser becomes bitter when he’s behind and careless when he’s ahead. A winner keeps his equilibrium no matter which position he happens to find himself in.

20. A loser believes in “fate.” A winner believes we make our own fate by what we do or fail to do.

Here’s my favorite: A loser thinks there are rules for winning and losing. A winner knows that every rule in the book can be broken, except one – be who you are, and become all you were meant to be, which is the only winning game in the world.

Butch Mazzuca of Singletree writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at

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