Psychology of Competition and Winning

urban-meyer-ncaa-football-sugar-bowl-ohio-state-vs-alabama1-850x560Shout out to all the Ohio State Buckeye fans on their victory over the Oregon Ducks to winthe first College Football Playoff National Championship.

OSU’s victorious underdog season mirrors our FLL season in many respects.  We both beat very long odds and far outperformed what was expected of us.  As a rookie team, GambierGigaFlops starting the season 2 months late with no financial backing and one old NXT robot for a team  of 10 kids, none of which had any experience with Lego Mindstorms.

“What we learn is more important than what we win” is one of the eight core values of FLL.  One of the most important lessons I saw our team demonstrate on Saturday was tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds.

We started our day with soul-crushing scores of 35 and 65 points in our practice and first round on the main robot tables respectively.  Everyone was thoroughly frustrated, angry and felt powerless in the face of FlopBotZilla’s erratic behavior.  But if you look at the photo essay of our Tournament, you’ll see the determination and grit in everyone, particularly Solvi, to power through and not give up.

The world is filled with many talented lucky individuals born into fortunate situation of wealth and power, yet many fail to live up to the potential of their abilities or their given situation.  Psychologist have developed various models to explain human behavior, success and happiness.  The major independent factors often identified are talent/innate ability, opportunities/resources/networks and grit/passion.  Recently, many have suggested that grit is the most important characteristic of all three.


Life will provide you a certain number of unique opportunities to break out and drastically improve your happiness and success.  Each of these opportunities is akin to getting a chance to roll dice at the craps table of life with a free stack of chips on any one number.  The odds of winning on any one roll is slight but the payout tremendous.

The huge advantage that people with grit have even in the face of overwhelming odds is grit, passion and persistence means they get to repeatedly come back to life’s casino table again and again until they do win big.  As anyone, who studies math, probability or games of chance can tell you, the chances of having a wwinning roll quickly approach 100% as the number of opportunities you have to roll the dice increase.


I hope that all team members remember this lesson in grit and success far into their careers and lives more so than any awards or trophies we win this season.  This is just one of the many great things about FIRST LEGO League and one of the many of our experiences together this season.




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