Saturday, January 29, 2011

When Success Comes First

Today was a super long, but fun day!  My 11 year old son, Mitchell was in his first State Lego Challenge.  There were 56 teams which equaled about 400 boys and girls ranging in age from about 9 to 13.  They had all spent months designing, building and programming their robots to do certain missions and now it was time to compete with others!  Mitchell's team was a last minute entry, because another team had dropped out.  So, we only had about a week to put everything together and practice. 

We arrived bright and early, at about 7 am (after an hour long drive) and we were excited to be there.  None of our expectations were high, we just thought it would be fun to experience it and see how it all worked!

The first round began and our team was the 14th team to go.  They did pretty well and we were happy they hadn't bombed!  When the scores came in, they were in first!  The kids were elated!  They jumped up and down. They hugged each other.  Parents took pictures of their wide grins!  It was exciting and suddenly I found myself thinking they had a shot to really come out in first or close to it!  More rounds went by and 2 other teams scored higher (quite a bit, actually, they were amazing), but still our spirits were high!  We ended round one in third place! 

With two rounds to go, we knew that anything could happen and we couldn't wait to see what future scores there would be!   Lunchtime came and then we headed back to compete in round two.  I was so excited and so happy to see my quiet son beaming from ear to ear!

They got their robot ready, the countdown began and then their little robot was off.  Things didn't go quite as smooth and as the boys worked to get it to do its missions, they began to get more and more flustered.  By the time the buzzer rang, it was clear to all of us that this score would not be so good.  The way the judging works in this type of challenge is that it is the best score of 3-so they don't get averaged, you just get 3 chances to do your best.

The boys were a bit bummed, but we all worked to cheer them up and they went off to practice some more. They had 45 minutes until their last competition and they spent the whole time trying to improve.  I was hopeful and excited!  I watched other teams who had started out with only a few points, jump ahead of us as round 2 and 3 went better for them.  Surely our round 3 would be our best yet!

The time came and they set it up.  Again they started off good and then it all came crashing down.  One of the girls, no matter how hard she tried, couldn't get the arm to stay on.  She worked and worked until you could see the pain on her face.  The others watched and waited-all wanting and hoping to beat their first time.  The buzzer rang and I saw 8 sad faces, slowly pick up their pieces and leave. By the time I met them on the side, 4 of them were in tears.  It was heartbreaking to see it end on such a low note.  Mitchell was sad the whole way home and said he wished he had never gone.  I knew he didn't really feel this way, but it made me ponder a bit about the order of success sometimes.

I even posed the scenario to him of how different it would be if their scores were reversed.  Instead of getting a 125, a 55 and an 80, how different the end result would have been if they had not achieved their best score until the end.  And why should it really matter?  A score is a score, right?  I think the difference is that when we work and we work and we work, getting better, struggling, but improving, we feel success.  There is something so sweet about succeeding, after you have tasted the bitterness of defeat.  However, if something comes easy at first and then gets harder, we seem to be more easily discouraged and the reward is not as great.  I thought this was a nice little life lesson for Mitchell and I today and I look forward to him having more successes in the future! 

Where in your life have you succeeded quickly, only to then experience the challenge?  Was it harder to reach that first level again?  Did you feel more discouraged?  And for those things that don't come easy, did you appreciate your success after working and failing and working some more?


Angie of Down This Road Designs said...

I agree just because we do not get the label as the winner does not mean we are not all winners!! Facing the challenge is a great thing in my book. It is hard sometimes to just enjoy the journey and experience every emotion with an open mind. I am sorry Mitchell and his team did not win. I am very proud of him though. What a future he has ahead of him. At his age to be programming robots is just mind boggling to me.

tomiannie said...

What a great life lesson in one short experience! So true that we don't appreciate success as much if it comes too easily.


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