"It pays to be a winner!"
This was not a winter fireside lecture from my father when I was 8 nor a halftime motivational kick up the ass for our football team from our PE teacher ferrying us around the local schools circuit.
The rallying command at the end of week 2 of 32.
It was the first moment I realised how much pain, physical and mental I was going to have to endure to get my hands on the infamous Green Beret .
Of course I had some idea of what was going to have to be overcome before I stepped into Commmando Training Centre at the immasculine age of 16. It was the moment when these 6 words came bellowing out from our assigned PTi when it became crystal : "IT PAYS TO BE A WINNER!"
Now you see, this is a game. The first time you play, the rules and objectives are not explained. The first time I played, this was the brief.
" The first 4 men to sprint to the top of that mound and back won't have to do it again. IT PAYS TO BE A WINNER!.... 3, 2, 1. GO!!!!!!!" There are 54 others packed into a 4 foot wide sandy trail path, looking ahead through the forest clearing, picking out the quickest route to the obvious knoll 200 yards away. It doesn't look far.
'I can win this!' There are 54 others thinking the same. Steam rising through the crisp sunrise, literally, due to the previous 60 minute beasting we have taken non stop after a few hours of broken sleep.
Sandy, bumpy, undulating, elbows, heels, toes, shoving, panting, groaning. It's not anywhere close to minus 2, I want to rip the sodden boots, trousers and combat jacket off because it's frigging boiling already.
5th. Breathless. Chest pounding. Gutted. Head up. No problem. Ready straight away! As I am going to win the next one.
Then the twist.... to this twisted game. "Right, you first four. Front support place. Arms bend.... and stretch. The rest of you... 3,2,1, GO!"
Get back in the first four and join the press up till you drop group, or keep sprinting the knoll? Will it pay to be a winner? The first four, thankyou, and I'll join the beasting that's being unleashed on the start line. And so it continued until the final group came in. Everyone on their knees.
What has prompted me to recall this experience has been the latest surge of trainers out there, some prominent in their field, who seem to be taking a stance on prizes for second. I think it's been commonplace over several years whereby schools and other organisations have been handing out participation certificates and prizes.
* An award presented to a kid for participating and trying their best is exactly that. If this practice draws out one gifted individual to show their potential then it's a worthwhile scheme.
* If a participant gives 100% max, nearly into collapse, and comes 6th then who am I to dictate whether they deserve a memento for their efforts. Let it be the one who recieves it to decide if they want it or not.
* In an age of tech where self gratification no longer needs to be delayed and where people reward themselves for doing nothing at all. Then for those that make the effort and then rewarded are learning a big life lesson. Rewards do come from trying.
* Those who are truly gifted and are destined to be at the top of the pile in their chosen sport are smart folk, usually surrounded and mentored by smart people. The most successful are focused and remain so on their ambitions. For a lesser talented individual to recieve a memento for their efforts will not harm the 0.1% who will go on and "try" to make a living from it.
31 weeks later I was 1 of 23 out of 55 who passed as a Royal Marine Commando. No one stood out that day when it paid to be a winner.
Everyone felt like one. Just for a moment.
And it felt good.