I remember distinctly after I lost in the finals of a big tournament in Florida in 1998, one of the local good players told me, "Second place is the real winner." Of course at the time the sting of losing in the finals was too strong for me even hear what he was saying.
And then of course it took me YEARs to figure out and finally understand what he was talking about.
I hadn't really understood a lot about the mental part of pool at that time, was hardly putting effort into improving, and didn't understand all the beautiful nuances of the sport yet, to truly fathom how powerful that one sentence is.
One of my friends recently placed second in a big tournament and I was SO HAPPY for her! I'm guessing she might have felt deflated and maybe defeated because it was second place, but all I could think about was how much she was going to learn because she got second place!
You see, if she had won the tournament, she may not be as reflective as she will be now. Let's face it, second place means you didn't win the tournament, so you're going to evaluate what happened, think back on your shots. Was I staying down? Was I tired? Was I nervous? What was going on? Had she won the tournament, none of those great questions would have entered into her mind for her to reflect on and learn from.
Lessons we learn when we lose big matches are sometimes the highest gifts to our game. Second place is the real winner.