This post is a few days removed from the event that gave impetus to thinking about the topic, primarily because the musings of my knee—jerk response to the final thirty minutes of the Masters were born of far too much emotion. And, though I’m not certain perspective has been fully regained, here goes.

Journalists, columnists and commentators have already commented at length on the stark juxtaposition of, on one hand, Phil Mickelson locked in a poignant embrace with his bride after winning his second Green Jacket; and on the other hand, Tiger Woods’ comments that many have characterized (correctly in my view) as born of almost no appreciation for the moment – either in terms of his own life, or for the lore of golf’s grandest stage. Agree or disagree, it is impossible to deny the compelling nature of the two stories. I’ll resist the temptation to opine further.

For me (and for some reason I feel compelled to apologize for the personal views I’m about to extol), there is a much more fundamental issue to be addressed: what have we decided constitutes winning?

For a season (no pun intended), while compiling an enviable record on the golf course, Mickelson was referred to as a “choker”, finishing in the top ten in tournament after tournament, but failing to finish first. The inference was that this man – clearly one of the world’s elite golfers – didn’t have the “stuff” to be a real winner.

Choker? Seriously?

And after listening to Tiger Woods’ comments at the conclusion of the Masters – comments that many of us (include me in the group) would once have lauded as representative of his relentless focus and commitment to winning – I wonder how many share my response; I no longer subscribe to, support or care to hear Tiger’s definition of sportsmanship, dedication or Winning. Not because I’m prepared to cast stones; not because I believe he should be held to any particular standard simply because he is gifted and public.

Not for any reason other than I believe it is time I realigned my definition of what it means to Win.

Jumping to another sport, when Duke defeated Butler in the fortieth minute of NCAA’s March Madness, how could anyone think of Butler’s bulldogs as a bunch of losers?

In that spirit, here are five ideas on the subject of winning.

  • There is serious merit to the idea that “it isn’t whether you win or lose, but how you play the game” (with apologies to Vince Lombardi)
  • Character matters. I’m not prepared to try to define it, except to say that while characters might win contests along the way, when calculating whether one is a Winner, the score is only one part of the formula
  • Though it is counter—intuitive, it is worth noting that not winning every single contest does not constitute Losing.
  • As cliché as it may sound, sometimes simply playing the game equates to Winning.

And maybe most important, I believe it is way past time to remind ourselves that millions of Winners never tee it up. Or set foot on a pitcher’s mound, make Sports Center, have the chance to hoist a championship trophy, or — for that matter — sit in a CEO’s chair. They simply embrace each day’s challenges. And parent. And mentor. And give more than they take.

These are the real Winners. With a capital “W”.