Melissa’s Insight: The Art of Losing

by in Food Network Star, August 11, 2011

Mary Beth and Jeff

Melissa d'Arabian won Star season 5 and has been loving her Food Network adventure ever since. You can catch new episodes of her show, Ten Dollar Dinners on Sunday mornings at 9am/8c. As a Star veteran watching from her couch at home, Melissa shares her insider's take on what went down each week.

Today I’m dedicating my blog to losing. Yes, losing. Next week at this time, we will be focused on who won, so now’s our chance to talk about not winning. Believe me, I’ve earned the air I breathe around this subject. While I did win my season of Star, I know what it’s like to watch someone else get something I wanted so badly, something I believed was my destiny. I’ve had to step aside with a graceful smile and applaud the victories of others. And I’ve replayed events over and over in my mind, wondering if there was a key moment where I lost and, more importantly, what could I have done to avoid it.

I’ve learned more by losing than by winning. When I lose, I try to nurse my hurt ego for a short time and then set it aside. Only then can I see losing as the valuable feedback it is. I evaluate and adjust course. In my experience, losing is a speed bump on the way to winning.

I believe that any given moment, I am right where I am supposed to be, good or bad. If it weren’t uncomfortable, then where would I find the motivation to try something different? Besides, discomfort tells me that life is in session. And that’s a good problem to have.

Here are some truths that have become apparent to me, through the gift of losing:

You are always auditioning for life, never just for the job. Think how many people have lost out on the prize in front of them only to go on to succeed in ways unimaginable. Do you think Jennifer Hudson imagined winning an Oscar when she was sent home from American Idol? My advice: When you lose, impress anyway. Be graceful. Be so good that people can’t imagine not calling you when they are looking for someone with your skill set. Mary Beth may not be the best cook Food Network has seen, but I will be very surprised if she ever has to seek work again as a writer. She’s great at that, and she showed what a class act she is. (Her parting words, “A lot of people don’t ever find their passion; how could I be anything but grateful?” show exactly why she will be successful.)

Penny Davidi

Make people want to pick you first for the big dodge ball game of life. Which makes Penny’s decision to phone in her work this week such a crime — not against Mary Beth because I think she would have been edged out anyway — but Penny robbed herself of the opportunity to turn it all around. Imagine if she had just knocked herself out for her teammate? What could have come from that? We’ll never know, and sadly neither will she.

Your life mission is not becoming a Food Network Star, even if it feels that way. You weekly readers know how I feel about having a personal life mission — it’s critical. Indeed, knowing what small mark I want to leave on the world gets me up in the morning. Here is the secret: If a life mission is about winning a contest (or job or any achievement), then consider the possibility that you aren’t thinking big enough for your life’s mission. As much as I wanted to win FNS (a lot), and as much as I knew why I wanted to win (to pursue my life’s mission), I also knew that my life’s mission could be served without winning. Making the mark is more important than doing it exactly the way I imagined. My life’s mission is helped along by my TV career, certainly, but my TV career is not the mission itself. Means versus ends.

Making peace with not winning is actually pretty simple. Know why you are playing (meaning know your life mission), play a game you can win (for instance, no one can bring Susie’s family recipes to life like she can), put in the work to win that game (no shortcuts), and then let the results fall where they may, accepting you are right where you are supposed to be at the end of it, win or lose.

Lastly, I remember the Olympic creed, which states that the most important thing is not to win but to take part — just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.

Good luck Vic, Susie and Jeff. Winning the FNS finale is not as important as what it took to get there, nor as important as where you will go after. Whoever wins, though, call me, and we’ll chat about winning, and your new life. Because it’s all about to change.

See what Melissa’s cooking up on Ten Dollar Dinners, check out her Facebook Fan Page and follow her on Twitter (@melissadarabian).

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Comments (113)

  1. Marsha says:

    I was always a fan but this is such a well thought out and intelligent blog, and it REALLY makes me deeply respect you, especially for your intellect. Melissa, this was sooo well said!
    PS I make your black bean hummus about once per week, it's delicious.

  2. MissyR says:

    You're absolutely right Melissa!
    This type of crap is sickening see below:
    Krishelle11 Krishelle
    @PennyDavidi I guess youre proud of the way you were portrayed?I hope that bitch karma kicks your ass. At least MB lasted longer than you.
    8 Aug Favorite Retweet Reply in reply to ↑

    Penny Davidi @Krishelle11 here's the thing!! It's Haters like you that keep me alive on all forms of media!! That's RICH BITCH to you!!! It's Television!
    8 Aug via Twitter for iPhone
    Favorite Retweet Reply


    Mentioned in this Tweet

    "Rich Bitch"? wow. True colors showing...absolutely disgusting. If FN even considers Penny..I am sorry- this ethic is terrible.

    Just my thoughts.

  3. Suzie Cupcake says:

    Thanks Melissa. Your article was perfect. MB showed a lot of class with her exit speech.

  4. Darla says:

    I don't agree with Melissa comments about Mary Beth being a good fact, she was a poor loser and instead of just accepting Jeff's hug, she allowed her emotions to take over...and display her poor loser side instead. Again, during the REUNION...she had an opportunity to show grace and maturity, however, yet again she displayed poor judgement by continuing to verbally say how much she is jealous and not thinking what she is saying while cameras are rolling. Mary Beth, get down your high horse!

    • chefmate1 says:

      I wish it were "just her high horse"! What a pathetic shallow individual. She is everything she despised in Penny. WHAT A BORE AND SORE LOOOOOOOOOOOSER! Jeff was a TRUE GENTLEMEN. What a bitchy attitude and low class way to leave a terrible taste in my mouth...soooooooo glad you did not make it to the finals. FN is crazzzzzy to offer her ANYTHING. She and Alton Brown could have a my ego is bigger than yours show. Please do not throw the FOOD under the table next year. This season has been very high on low taste ideas and class acts. JEFF KATY SUSIE VIC AND JILL WERE CLASS ACTS. Jill showed such poise and grace with WGP!!!!!!!

      • MommaK says:

        I definitely lost respect for Mary Beth when she lost. And even more so when she wouldn't answer when asked if she would watch Jeff's show, but instead sang the praises of Suzie ( I have no problem with Suzie). I think the best person won...

  5. Ken says:

    YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! You got it right this time. Time to take Melissa off the air.

    • luvcookin says:

      I love watching Melissa! I have my DVR set to record her show every week. The show I do not watch is Aarti. I can't stand her giggling like a middle school teenager. It makes her seem fake.

  6. Rosita says:

    Melissa. Good thoughts. I was so sad Suzie lost. I just cannot believe she was not the star this year.

  7. frances says:

    Mary Beth was a sore loser and she proved it when she wouldn't hug Jeff. Showed her true colors.

  8. Daniel A. says:

    I was somewhat taken aback by Mary Beth'"asperity" (SAT word finally gets some use) in reaction to being eliminated in favor of Jeff. Compounding this with the opportunity to explain away or otherwise patch up, she chose not to. In failing to do so, the goodwill she had with viewers/producers/etc. took a huge hit. Jeff came off as gracious and kind (pretty much EVERYONE ELSE said so) and even Penny (!) said nice things about him. In contrast, MB's seemingly harsh aloofness did her no favors. I was, frankly, unpleasantly surprised. Sad to say, but it seems Penny & MB were right about each other.

  9. arenzi76 says:

    I'm sorry but after watching the season finale last night and the shot of Mary Beth pushing Jeff away when he tried to hug her...graceful loser....I think not.

  10. Neil says:

    so glad jeff won, FN needs a new twist on shows, marybeth was a HUGE disappointment with her negative attitude towards the whole thing now that she was kicked off, also, if FN paid Penny for the show, then they need to ask for a refund.