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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Stories Of The Second Best.

In Singapore there is a well known social attitude called Kiasu (from Hokkien - Kiah Soo, Chinese - 怕输). It literally means "scared to lose", and it refers an excessively competitive attitude at the expense of basic social graces like courtesy and respect for others.

This is not a behavior unique to Singaporeans, a similar attitude in the West is "keeping up with the Joneses", though in Singapore it is common to hear people brandishing the concept of kiasuism as if it were a matter of national pride.

I don't like either attitude.

But what I especially hate about kiasuism is the fear of being second best. The Western equivalent is "why settle for second best?" Truly kiasu individuals consider the second best to be on par with losers.

First off, I must state that the second best don't usually "settle" to be second best. In terms of skill, effort and persistence, they are often equal (sometimes better!) than the best.

Why aren't they the best then?

Because there is only one "best" position.

You can work your darnest to become super good. But in fiercely competitive fields, you cannot choose to be the best.

It chooses you.

To illustrate the meaning of this, and to highlight their epic struggles, I will be posting a regular feature of stories on the men and women who tried their utmost, but yet were unable to become household names by just a hair's breadth.

I tell their stories because I believe they deserve to be better known.

Stay tuned for the first essay coming your way - The Quest for Mount Everest!


Molly Brown said...

Oh My! My! My!
You are right out there! To succeed, one must first be well trained by there dog!!!!

Xisla said...