When You’re Not Number One

Recently I had the opportunity to engage in conversation with astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, who is best known for the Apollo 11 space mission, the first spaceflight that landed humans on the moon. Neil Armstrong was the first to step on the lunar surface and Buzz followed within minutes.

In our discussion, Buzz told me that after that flight, he was angry, disappointed, depressed, and frustrated at being labeled number two. It drove him crazy whenever he was introduced as the second man to walk on the moon. This went on for years.

As I listened to him speak, in my mind, I heard the words, “You walked on the moon … you walked on the moon … you walked on the moon!”

Then I wondered why being number two made such a difference to a man who achieved something that just about every human, minus a very select few, can only imagine.

I understand the importance of history and that in some situations it’s fun to win and often that place comes with rewards not offered to others. But is being number one the only thing in life? Does nothing else count? Is it so important that we are willing to risk our self-esteem, fulfillment, and ability to move forward?

Have we lost sight of our journey and accomplishments? Can we can only see the prize and nothing else matters? And, when we don’t achieve the gold, are we a failure?

Unfortunately, I believe that many people look to that prize and when they aren’t the “best”, whatever that means, they label themselves a “failure”. And that fear of “failing” often keeps them stuck in place.

It’s time that we start paying attention to the journey and the accomplishments that we make along the way. Yes, we should have ambition and goals, and we must always do our best, but if your best doesn’t make you number one, take a realistic look at all that you have achieved and give yourself a pat on the back.

Would you ever consider Buzz Aldrin a failure?

Buzz admitted that as he got older and learned a thing or two about life, he finally recognized the magnitude of what he achieved and the role he played in making it happen. Neil may have been number one, but he needed number two to get him there.

So, the next time you’re being hard on yourself, remember Buzz and that sometimes number two ain’t such a bad place to be.

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