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. Neil says:

    this season on FN star was the most boring of all, FN allowed these people to act like children and thinks this is what gets ratings and a audience, I just wanted to see cooking and how they grow, not all the back biting, i'm glad jeff won, but in all honesty, i really didn't care this year, last year was my climax for me, hard to beat that year. Aarti is FABU!!!!

    • Yankette says:

      Neil, capital letters and periods are you friend!!! Ignorance is unacceptable.

      This season, in my opinion, showcased the most talented group thusfar. I am sorry but am not a big fan of the "Hardy Boys," "Ten Dollar Dinners" and Guy Fieri. I do watch Big Daddy's House and LOVE Aarti.

      • luvcookin says:

        I read that Big Daddy's House was shown the door. Last time I checked, his picture is no longer on the FN homepage. Aaron was a PC pick from the beginning. He forgot to cook his protein and had to be reminded by one of the other contestants. He got more "takes" when making his promo.

  2. Eater says:

    This blog article was written just a touch too soon. Between the shove of Jeff when she lost out to then saying she wouldn't support Jeff's show; Mary beth comes across as a 2nd grader who had her candy taken away. Quite frankly, she looked like a poor, poor loser. I'd never read her blog becasue I don't respect her. And Bobby Flay said she didn't have the "cooking chops" about 10 times before she was booted. I was shocked she lasted as long as she did.

    She never got over being mad at Jeff about assigning her to cook a duck as if he knew she couldn't do it. Anyone that moaned and complained as much as she did about the duck doesn't deserve a cooking show.

    • Suzie Cupcake says:

      Yep! MB came off as very insecure and a sore loser to boot. Penny definitely outclassed MB at the reunion.

  3. Wendy says:

    After seeing the reunion show last night I've changed my mind about Mary Beth and Penny somewhat. Penny was always slow, she was slow in the food truck, so I don't think she did it on purpose to sabotage Mary Beth in the Iron Chef challenge. On the reunion show Mary Beth really showed a dislike for Jeff while so many other contestants sang his praises which made me wonder if Penny was the problem all along or if Penny's attitude was the, in part, a result of the behavior aimed at her by Mary Beth. After the reuinion show I would rather see Penny get a show than Mary Beth.

    • Suzie Cupcake says:

      I totally agree. Penny, as she said, was methodical. I think MB was pissed to have Penny as her soux chef. She was also still pissed at Jeff about him assigning her duck. Penny was far more interesting and 100 x a better cook than MB could ever hope to be.

    • Tom says:

      I agree 100%!!! My view of MaryBeth completely changed after watching her horribly rude behavior towards Jeff during the reunion. Pro-Penny!

  4. Susan says:

    At this point, If all I had left in the kitchen was a dishwasher, I wouldn't hire Penny for a minute!

  5. Frances Robson says:

    I was so disapointed that FN selected Penny to be on this year's competition for she was the most selfish, self-centered, egotistical competitor they have ever had. Every season has been a joy to watch and I always learn so much while I watch them try to achieve a dream. Melissa, your season was great and I rooted for you from the 1st night for you are gracious, pleasant and so knowledgeable about food that we all enjoy eating. I hope that next year the contestants will be screened more carefully for I can't watch another one like Penny. She is surely not a good example of women from the the Middle East for those I know are gracious ladies. Thank you for the blog for I always enjoy it.

  6. Viewer says:

    Melissa, I'm sorry, but I disagree with some of what you have said. Mary Beth was a sore loser. She should have held her head up high and left with dignity. Mary Beth's performance in the reunion show gave those of us who watched her all season, new insight to the type of person she really is. At least with Penny you know where you stand. I was one of those viewers who didn't like Penny's attitude toward her fellow "stars", but after seeing Mary Beth's "poor me" portrayal and listening to her mean remarks, I'll take Penny any day! I absolutely will not read or watch anything done by Mary Beth.

  7. Sandy says:

    I think Melissa's comment was written a little too soon. Mary Beth's comments on the reunion show and during the focus group showed her gracious loser demeanor to be short lived. Like it or not, Penny was the one showing more class during the final week than Mary Beth. Neither one showed the class or generosity of heart that the three finalists had. Mary Beth may have charmed some of the judges, but I for one will be happily recording the sandwich king each and every week, and am glad that I won't have to worry about avoiding Sunday Suppers. But I would really love to see some of those Middle Eastern recipes!

  8. Susan says:

    After watching the Reunion show, I was totally amazed by Mary Beth's reaction to losing out to Jeff. I thought prior to this that she was a class act. I have totally changed my opinion. What she did ranks her up there now in my mind with Penny. She dares to react to Penny, she's just like her.

  9. Tom says:

    After watching the reunion, the surprise villian of the series was Mary Beth! I was a fan through the show but alwasy thought Jeff should win. Well her rude behavior when asked about Jeff (her reactions were as if she was pressured by the judges to hug a murderer) displayed her drama-filled, entitled true colors. Jeff was the most entertaining person and will go very far in his career. I am shocked how un-mary beth like, Mary Beth acted towards him. I now know that Penny was not as insane as portrayed.

  10. Anita says:

    Sorry - but I think Mary Beth showed her true nasty colors at the end. She seemed bitter and snooty about losing to someone she apparently found to be "beneath" her. She never had the goods to be the next Food Network star - period. I guess I was fooled at first by Mary Beth - thought she was a sweet person - but just like Melissa promoting herself as the perfect housewife, who then morphed into the "I'm an executive" was just fake and disengenuous......So - I'm not surprised to see her defended by Melissa.