(The following is a guest post written by Dalton Anderson who is covering for his mother, Amy Rees Anderson, who just returned from a five day philanthropy trip and was in need of sleep)
Winning has consequences. Be ready to accept them.
It was third grade. I was a cute, well-groomed third-grader, with great hair and fantastic eyebrows. Honestly, I looked like a messy troll doll, but I was a fabulous messy troll doll. In fact, I had a pretty cute third-grade girlfriend at the time, who for the sake of my story, and for the sake of her anonymity, I will refer to as “my lady.” This is not to be confused with my actual lady, who I am happily married to. The term girlfriend is just a little weird because we were third graders—and how serious of relationship can you actually have in the third grade?
Something that you have to understand about me is that I’m an incredibly competitive person. I came out of the womb competitive. It all started when I won the race of life by being the first to the egg, so it’s in my nature to be a winner. As a third grader, I valued winning above all else.
One day in class, our teacher announced that we would play “heads-up, seven-up.” This is a game where the class puts their heads down on their desk, closes their eyes, and sticks their thumbs up. Then, a few choosers go around silently and touch someone’s thumb, effectively “tagging” them. The choosers then go to the front of the class, and everyone raises their heads. Those who were tagged have to guess which of the choosers picked them. If the tagged individual guesses correctly, they switch places and become a chooser. Hopefully I’ve explained that well.
As we were playing, I was tagged, and then correctly guessed who tagged me. It was then my turn to be a tagger (or chooser to remain consistent.) I had a difficult decision to make. Even though I was only a third-grader, I knew that there was an expectation from my lady to choose her, but my winner mentality knew that if I played to those expectations, I’d lose. Part of me wishes I could say that I actually had to hesitate on my decision, but I quickly motioned to another chooser to tag my lady. Game recognize game, because he immediately obliged. I then picked the girl that had a crush on the other kid, and we both stealthed our way to the front of the class. When everyone’s heads came up, the guessing began. My eyes didn’t leave my lady’s, and I gave a sly, flirty smile, just to seal my victory. When it was her turn to guess, she did as expected, and said my name. I had hoped to play it off, but I can only assume a big stupid smirk came across my face as I said, “It wasn’t me.” She was so confident that I had picked her, that she was already getting ready to take my spot, and it gave me a sense of wicked satisfaction to pop her bubble.
She wasn’t amused.
I was pretty proud of myself, and it was even more satisfying when the girl that I had tagged said the name of the kid that tagged my lady. It was a brilliant plan, and in the words of Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, “I love it when a plan comes together.” I went another three rounds as chooser, evading guessers the whole time, and then the school bell rang telling us it was time to go home, meaning I would be leaving as a reigning champ. We all packed up quickly, but when I turned to look for my lady, she had already rushed out to the carpool and was gone before I could talk to her.
The next day, it was clear that my relationship status had changed. The normal smile and warm gaze I’d receive from across the room during Language Arts was now an empty, cold, bitter—well not stare, because she actually just cold-shouldered me the whole morning. I may have been a brilliant tactician in a classroom game, and I may have been smart enough to know that she wouldn’t be happy about my strategy, but I was a poor naïve fool to believe that she’d forget about it. When lunchtime came, I looked for my lady in the cafeteria to sit next to her. It was a bad sign when I found her sitting between her two best friends, leaving a lone spot on the opposite side of the table from them. I walked over and sat down as if I was interviewing for an executive position with only an unpaid internship on my resume. I was mostly ignored, not just by my lady, but by her two friends as well. I tried to make small talk, but was abruptly cut off when my lady asked me why I didn’t pick her in the game the day before. The gears slowly turned as I realized she was still deeply upset over it. I clearly wasn’t a child genius, because I answered, “I wanted to win.” That’s all it took. I had signed my own death warrant. The fact that I would put winning over our relationship was all she needed to hear. She said something about how we weren’t boyfriend/girlfriend anymore, and that I should find a new place to sit for lunch. Then, I was dismissed.
I don’t remember being heartbroken—it was the third grade after all. In the week-and-a-half of our relationship, we had sat next to each other during lunch about four times, and walked around the playground picking dandelions. I mean seriously, it was the third grade. But it was definitely a wake-up call for third-grade Dalton. It was the first time I realized that there are consequences to choosing the game over relationships. That lesson has stuck with me my entire life.
PS. My third grade lady and I never did smooth things over, and we went from elementary through high school not interacting again. Ironically, she ended up marrying a guy named Dalton, and I like to think that she never could get over me (or all Dalton’s are just ridiculously good looking and we can’t turn off the charm. …That’s probably what it is.)
~written by Dalton R. Anderson (son of Amy Rees Anderson, “What Awesome Looks Like: How To Excel in Business & Life” )