Well, hello again there, back with Sasha from think-team. This time I’ll try to come up with something to follow the recent trend: Olympics 2020. While Indri’s recent blog mainly talks about how this event is held sustainably, mine would be about something different.
Ever heard the old saying that goes: “There are no happy silver medalists”
Or in some other version: “There are no happy second winners”
I am a huge fan of (watching) sports games but due to work and other activities, I couldn’t watch the Olympics 2020 game fully, I mostly just watched the highlights, and sometimes I couldn’t help but notice that somehow, the bronze medalist is seemed to be much happier than the silver medalists. Of course, the gold medalists took all the spotlight and they deserved it. Maybe it’s just me, but I began thinking if this situation happened more than once. For example, I noticed this when the women’s double pair from China couldn’t beat Indonesia’s pair in badminton game. I watched through the highlight that they began crying and apologies to each other for their results just after they got their silver medals. It is quite heart-wrenching to see and of course, afterward, the camera then moved to capture the euphoria of the gold medalists Greysia Polii and Aprilia Rahayu. Both teams did their best, but the sadness was clearly visible to the spectators’ eyes from both countries.
The same sighting also can be seen when Great Britain’s men 4x100m relay team could not beat the US’s team in one of the most heated swimming numbers in the Olympics. Even though they already beat numerous countries to take the second spot, their spirits are shattered. It is normal, it doesn’t matter which sport they do, nobody likes losing, nobody likes being defeated. I began to dig deeper into this matter and try to connect it with our daily work. There’s actually something commonly called as “The Silver Medal Syndrome”. One study by American Psychological Association pointed out that silver medalists tend to think about – and compare themselves to – that gold medalist. They think, “Maybe if I had only done something different, I could have won that gold medal.” That sort of thinking can be especially inescapable when the top two positions can be separated by nearly imperceptible milliseconds. The researchers also presented a second theory: silver medalists likely go into a competition expecting they'll perform better than they do, and when they fall short of those predictions, it can affect their happiness post-competition.
The bronze medalists on the other hand are seemed to be a lot happier. Winning the silver medal obviously isn’t as satisfying as winning gold, but bronze medal winners are actually happier than silver medalists because they almost didn’t get any medal. It’s all about perspective. This phenomenon could be explained by something called counterfactual thinking when people compare their objective achievements to what might have been. Silver medalists look at how closely they missed the gold while bronze medalists see how close they were not getting medals at all.
I wondered back to read again the recent blog by our co-founder Tak about objectives. Athletes spend hours and hours to hone their skill to achieve anything the world could offer, it could be fame, medals, trophies, or maybe the feeling to finally beat your hardest opponent, and sometimes the opponent is yourselves. Athletes set their objectives straight day by day to reach the target, like winning the gold medal(s) in Olympic 2020 for example. Alas, sometimes, it’s not your day to have the gold. Sometimes life only granted you the silver medal or even no medal at all. I remember having similar situations a lot during my school days, sometimes I felt disappointed with the outcomes of my exams and found out my rank was not what I have expected. We cannot always win in every aspect of our life and despite the maximum effort we gave, we experienced failures time after time.
As many people will say, you can either surrender or learn from your defeat. You can look back at many things you have done so far. These efforts that have been done so far, brought the silver medals to the Chinese pair. If you try to look into another perspective, they still win, they got the medal, and (I hope) they still have the spirit to achieve more in their life. You can see this in our mundane life too, maybe we’re all not athletes that thrive for gold medals, but still, we want to achieve something very related to gold itself. “One percent improvement every day could bring us closer to our goals”. And (as a mental note to myself as well), failures are sometimes inevitable, but you can still be happy with what you have achieved after hurdles and battles you’ve been through, similar to what the bronze medalists would feel. Even more so, you shouldn't have the need to compare your achievements to other medalists, it wouldn't make things easier to focus on the work of others rather than focusing on yourselves.
Lastly, I’d like to quote the judoka Madeleine Malonga when she asked about how she felt after she earned her silver medal:
"The silver medal is the one you get when you finish with a defeat and when you bite into it on the podium, it tastes a little bland. So, I'm going to start training again and I will try to smash everything in 2024, to find out what gold tastes like.”
Do you have any experience that closely feels like you only got the silver medal(s)? If you do, please share your experience below!