How many X factor winners can you name? I’m going to give you 10 seconds to think. How many have you got?

If you’re new to my blog, you might have spent the 10 seconds frantically and confusedly wondering what you subscribed to. If you’ve read my blog before, you might be confused by the change in direction I’ve taken. Maybe you were expecting a blog about balanced living in a complex world.

Perhaps you are seeking advice and support from a fellow business person who is looking to achieve results but striving to avoid burning out.

Instead, you got asked to name X factor winners… And I bet you were rubbish at it.

Ok. Another question. What if I asked you to name artists whose careers have spanned more than 20 years. The musical greats if you will. Go one; I’ll give you another 10 seconds.

Who have you got? Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Springsteen, Bowie, Madonna?…And how many? Whatever your number is, I am sure it is higher for my second question than my first.

We will not dwell on musicians because they are not the entire subject of this blog. In this week blog we are going to be asking a big, complex question. Even bigger than “how many X factor contestants can you name?”

My name is Andrew Sillitoe, this is my blog and today I am going to be asking “Are you really winning?”

“It’s not about the winning; it’s the taking part that counts.” This phrase is repeated by every compassionate supporter of someone who uses an unfair turn of phrase, a loser. Now listen, if you, like me, have ever been on the receiving end of such a comment, you will know that it tends to be as soothing as a handful of salt to the wound you’ve just been left with. The only thing left to do is rub it in…

But even the winners, the people who come in first, the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote, still might not have won the whole race. So what does winning look like, and how willing are we to challenge our preconceived ideas? In this blog, I’m interested in exploring what winning means to us, and what it really should mean.. Winning in business is often an unachievable, impossible goal. This ever-moving target is asking us to hit the bull’s eye, then as soon as we do, do it again, and if you don’t, you have to put down your bow and arrow and to conclude this archer based metaphor, hang up your Robin Hood hat and vow never to return to Sherwood Forest again.

The feeling that “everyone else is doing better than me” is a common and understandable one. I felt it often. I still feel it. I feel it when I turn on the tv and see actors that look like angels have handcrafted them. When I engage with social media, I see people celebrating their achievements that range from buying their dream home to mastering a full English breakfast. I feel it in business when I see the end of year figures that make my eyes water. If you, like me, feel like you are not winning, you are not alone, but I think it is time we talk about what winning looks like and more importantly, what it feels like.

I’m going to tell you a quick story about a time that I felt I had lost.

A few years ago my sister and I lost our inheritance. I was removed from the legal document that allowed the money I would receive to come to me. I was written out of the will. I don’t need to tell you that I was not thrilled about it. The person who managed to get me out of the inheritance, however, was…

As a passionate sports person, I know the importance of training and persistence. I know that strength and stamina have to be earned and they are only maintained with practice. If you take shortcuts, you might get a quick win, but it is not long-lasting. There are shortcuts we can all take, and I am sure there are shortcuts we’ve all taken to get where we want to be. But is that winning? Is the victory that you borrowed better than the one you earnt? Probably not. But when I was disinherited, I felt that I had not only “not won”, but I had lost.

There is sometimes a feeling that the world is against you. Now I am aware that I am cushioned by extreme societal privilege as a white, heterosexual, middle-class, able-bodied man. I know that I am very rarely discriminated against, yet sometimes I feel that the world is against me.

So I suppose what I am saying is that everyone must be, if I’m feeling like that, right?

Sometimes when I am playing hockey with my team, decisions the referee makes go against us and we end up losing the match. Teams cheat and because the ref’s eyes can’t be everywhere, they give the advantage to the other team, the teams that cheat. I am proud to say that once we lose those games to foul play, we bury our frustrations in training and come back stronger next time. We earn our victories and when we are cheated out of them, we wear them like a badge of honour. That is what really winning feels like.

There are some days, weeks, and even years where you feel like you would take it if there was a quick fix. If you could skip out the middle steps and just get to the victory you’re craving, you’d do that. You’d cheat, you’d tamper with figures, you’d use up all the three wishes from the genie within the first three minutes to give yourself an easy ride. We’ve all done it. But when I was working on today’s episode, I realised that that is not a win.

An olympic gold medal weighs approximately half a kilo. An Oscar is a hefty 8 and a half pounds. The Victoria Cross, awarded to the best and the bravest, is only 27 grams in weight. So it can’t just be about the winning, can it? We are striving for more. We are striving for the satisfaction that comes only through hard work, a little bit of luck and kindness.

I wouldn’t change being written out of the family inheritance. How graciouse do I sound?! Don’t get me wrong, at the time I was blood-boiling, pacing up-and-down-rooms, unable-to-think-of-anything-else furious. But time is healing. And like I say, when I was thinking about this episode, I discovered I really wouldn’t change that part of my past. I wouldn’t change the motivation it gave me to provide for myself and my family. I wouldn’t change the hard but deeply satisfying work that has put me firmly on the path I am on.

The same can be said for mental health. Now I know that particularly men find this difficult to talk about because we are not used to discussing our feelings. We reply, “I’m fine” in such a knee-jerk way that we cheat ourselves out of our truth. The famous phrase of “It’s ok not to be ok” is vital for me. Winning in our mental health is not just telling people “I’m fine” it is about having the strength to say “I’m not fine” that puts you on the path to victory. If you say “I’m fine” and you’re not, you are not winning. It is as simple as that. There are no shortcuts to winning with mental health. Like the journey to happy relationships, work-life balance, and other aspects, winning is the long game. It is an investment in yourself and those you care about. And you owe it to yourself to try.

There were no shortcuts that I could take to get to where I wanted to be. I couldn’t enter The Apprentice and become the business person I wanted to be. Just in the same way, I don’t think X-Factor winners have careers that in any way rival the legacy artists you thought of earlier. It’s the journey where the soul-searching takes place.

Winning for me is no longer target driven. It’s not about how much money I make. It is about looking after myself and my family and my team. It is about striving to achieve balance in a complex world. I am in it for the long game. And I hope you’ll join me.

I’m going to finish with some wise words from a wise man.

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”

That was Albert Einstein, I’m Andrew Sillitoe.

Thanks for reading my blog

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