The 14th annual USA Memory Championship took place this past Saturday in New York. For the first time in two years, I did not walk away as the USA Memory Champion. I must tell you that losing stings, it burns and it hurts. With that said, I did very well and finished in second place. My score in the final round of memorizing 71 consecutive playing cards in five minutes would have won the tournament in any other year. Yet, this was Nelson Dellis‘s year, and he memorized an astounding 100 cards in five minutes.
After I verbalized the 71st card, I handed the microphone to Nelson knowing that what he said would determine the winner. If he said the correct card, he would win because I did not know the next one. If he faltered, I would be the USA Memory Champion. I don’t know what he said because I went numb when I passed the microphone, but I could tell from the judge’s reaction he was correct. I then turned to Nelson and said, “I would like to be the first to congratulate the new USA Memory Champion…Nelson Dellis.” That was hard to do. I did not want to pass the torch, but chose to go out on my terms.
What value did I take from this year’s tournament? As I stood there, I realized that I didn’t have to compete this year. After all, I had nothing to prove, but I wanted to compete to challenge myself. There is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt in which he says that the people who neither know victory nor defeat are “cold and timid souls.” There are people all around you who have no clue what it means to work hard toward a goal and fail. Instead, their life is marked by no challenges, no goals and no growth. Yes, defeat stings, it is hard and it burns. Yet, the worst sting of all is being a cold and timid soul who knows neither victory nor defeat.
What is next for me? I will give my brain a rest for a few days and then press on to the next memory goal. However, I assure you, I will be challenging myself, putting myself in a position where I may not walk away number one. I refuse to be a cold and timid soul who neither knows victory nor defeat, and that is my wish for you as well.
Congrats, Nelson. You earned it.