Another pageant has come and gone; a new Miss North Carolina USA reigns supreme. After making the Top 12 and competing for the first time in 2001, admittedly — I fell victim to the pageant bug and I can’t quite shake it. As I scrolled through the #missncusa tags, I couldn’t help but to reminisce on the days when I thought winning was everything. As I approach 33, I now know, for me, it definitely is not.

Don’t get me wrong, it would have been a tremendous honor; I can acknowledge that still. However, I’m not just talking pageantry here. I’m talking about winning and life in general.

Especially in the US, sort of like Ricky Bobby pointed out, it’s as if our society can only count to 1. Everyone is on a quest to be the best __(at something)__ . But should being #1 always be a desired destination? Think of how often we’ve seen “winners” exposed in a way we never expected. The recent coming out of Caitlyn Jenner is a great example. Then there is Lance Armstrong…Tiger Woods…Marion Jones…Tonya Harding…Kobe Bryant…and those are just a few folks people might recognize. There are PLENTY of others in the world of competition (I happen to know quite a few) that are chased towards greatness by either fear or darkness. I don’t know about you, but I don’t aspire to fill those kind of shoes. It’s sort of sad actually, all that glory, but no peace of mind.

Competition to that degree is simply not in my DNA. If I never win a thing, it will be fine by me. I’ve learned from experience that you never know what’s driving the person in the spotlight. Whatever it is could be deeper and darker than pure aspiration could ever surmount. I’m not suggesting you avoid all ranking systems, but I am suggesting you take the time to explore what a competition has to offer in lieu of a grand prize. An all or nothing mindset will leave you feeling empty handed no matter what the outcome is. True winners learn how to win from within — with or without being center stage.