The Jew­ish Book Coun­cil is delight­ed to launch a new blog series in part­ner­ship with Ask Big Ques­tions, an ini­tia­tive out of Hil­lel Inter­na­tion­al aimed at get­ting peo­ple to talk about issues of heart, soul and com­mu­ni­ty. Each month, Ask Big Ques­tions will fea­ture a JBC author on their blog, shared here on the JBC Pros­en­Peo­ple blog page, and in cam­pus pro­gram­ming reach­ing over 10,000 col­lege and grad­u­ate students.

Slash Cole­man is a 2013 – 2014 JBC Net­work par­tic­i­pant and author of The Bohemi­an Love Diaries. Read more of his writ­ing for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil here.

Hang­ing on my father’s stu­dio wall is a news­pa­per clip­ping, ripped from the 1973 Rich­mond News Leader. The head­line reads: Freaks vs. Pigs.” In one of my ear­li­est sports mem­o­ries, the sculp­ture depart­ment where my father attend­ed col­lege — a.k.a. The Freaks — beat the City of Rich­mond Police Depart­ment— a.k.a. the Pigs — in a fundrais­ing soft­ball game. 

My father scored the win­ning run, his plumber’s butt became famous, and a cel­e­bra­tion ensued that last­ed months. 

Under­neath the arti­cle a pho­to shows my shirt­less father and I stand­ing beside his freaky, shirt­less artist friends on the soft­ball field. To his right is Frank Half Man” Creasy, a painter who shaved the hair off the entire right side of his body. This includ­ed the hair on his head, face, eye­brows, eye­lids, armpits, chest, arms, legs, and big toes. To my father’s left is Brit­ta Gar­ri­son, a tiny print­mak­er who rode a pink minia­ture horse to class. I’m nuz­zled into her elab­o­rate soft­ball uni­form (an ornate gold and sil­ver Eliz­a­bethan gown) bask­ing proud­ly, roman­ti­cal­ly (and shirt­less­ly), feel­ing like I’ve just won big at Bin­go. A moment after the pic­ture was tak­en she kissed me on the lips. I was instant­ly in love with winning. 

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this would be the clos­est I’d ever come to win­ning at sports again. Yet, the hook sank deep. Girls liked win­ners and as a five-year-old bat­boy Casano­va who liked being kissed by girls (espe­cial­ly ones in Eliz­a­bethan gowns), the syl­lo­gism seemed log­i­cal. Play sports. Win. Win the girl. 

Find­ing (and win­ning) the girl of my dreams set my sub­se­quent quest for hap­pi­ness on a hap­less course that includ­ed a long and risky sports career, scores of painful trips to the emer­gency room, and plen­ty of bro­ken hearts. Along the way, I learned a thing or two about win­ning. Main­ly, that I was an artist trapped in a jock’s body who prob­a­bly wouldn’t live his life as a pro­fes­sion­al athlete. 

Whether your inten­tions are to win a heart like Don Juan, win a game like Pey­ton Man­ning, or win big with per­son­al suc­cess, my list below is sure to help you feel like a winner: 

1. Win the Emu­late Your Hero” Award 

My grand­est roman­tic obses­sion involved win­ning the affec­tions of my beau­ti­ful and sin­gle third grade teacher, Ms. Ottenbrite. For an entire year, I dressed in a white den­im pantsuit with a red pil­low­case tied around my neck and imag­ined myself as the infa­mous dare­dev­il Evel Kniev­el. I’d see myself fly­ing through the sky in slow motion and into her arms as John Phillip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes For­ev­er” played in the back­ground. Win this award with your best iTunes playlist.

2. Win the I Won by Los­ing” Award

I joined the var­si­ty wrestling team to win the heart of our home­com­ing queen Savan­nah van Houten. As a result, I became the only wrestler in the his­to­ry of my high school for two years straight to lose every match with­in the first five sec­onds. Yet, Savan­nah nev­er knew I exist­ed. This was the ulti­mate per­son­al homage to the wrestling uni­form — an out­fit tai­lored to resem­ble a girl’s one-piece bathing suit with strange ear pro­tec­tors that remind me of a yarmulke thong. Win this award with a big slice of hum­ble pie.

3. Win the Fash­ion For­ward Podi­a­try” Award

Jew­ish mom’s are famous for their guilt, espe­cial­ly when it comes to leav­ing the house wear­ing clean under­wear. Just in case you’re in an acci­dent,” they always say. Take it from a guy who’s acci­dent prone, under­gar­ments are way over­rat­ed. Let’s be hon­est. The first acces­so­ry any­one notices about a man is his shoes. My dad won that soft­ball game in a pair of Chopines, a lace-up boot made of wood and cov­ered in deer skin. Win this award by down­grad­ing from box­ers to briefs.

4. Win the Wet Straw and Stale Horse Smell” Award

I start­ed wear­ing Brut by Fabergé at the age of ten. This is the cheap cologne that comes in a plas­tic green bot­tle made famous by Muham­mad Ali, Wilt Cham­ber­lain, and James Bond. This is the smell that screams, Go where no man has gone before!” Fol­low your heart to the men’s per­son­al groom­ing prod­ucts isle at Wal­greens and then fol­low your nose. Win this award exclu­sive­ly at Walgreens. 

5. Win the Big is Small” Award

I once bought a one way tick­et to Alas­ka (with my remain­ing bar mitz­vah mon­ey) and lived like a cater­pil­lar in a tent with­out poles (I’d for­got­ten them) for near­ly a year in an attempt to woo my very first girl­friend. I thought my larg­er-than-life ges­ture would win her heart. Instead, she left me for the cur­mud­geon­ly, wrin­kled man­ag­er at the fish can­nery in Nikis­ki. Win this award by cry­ing on your best friend’s shoulder. 

6. Win the Small is Big” Award

As a south­ern­er, I was raised with a cer­tain fla­vor of man­ners that has always trans­lat­ed into small ges­tures of kind­ness towards oth­ers. These days kind­ness has become some sort of rad­i­cal mitz­vah that needs to be added to a to-do list. Be nice, peri­od. Win this award with small, kind gestures. 

7. Win the I Real­ly Feel it” Award

Coach Mon­day called what hap­pened dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion an anatom­i­cal enig­ma.” I would be the only gym­nast in com­pet­i­tive his­to­ry to be knocked out of my tights dur­ing a Big Ten Con­fer­ence com­pe­ti­tion after sling­ing myself off the high bar and knock­ing myself out on one of those halo­gen lights on the gym­na­si­um ceil­ing. I woke up in the arms of the lone female judge and then threw up on her blaz­er. Win this award with your sen­si­tive side. 

8. Win the Pow­er Through Patience” Award 

On my hon­ey­moon, my wife and I shaved our heads to prove that love was based on more than just phys­i­cal appear­ances. I’m ashamed to say I real­ized the very next day the depths of my shal­low­ness. I felt like I’d mar­ried a big bald man! It took Raleigh’s hair near­ly two years to grow back. By then, I’d won my super­fi­cial free­dom back and lost my wife. Win this award with patience.

9. Win the Bor­ing Excite­ment” Award

Every day after school and on week­ends until dark, I’d lay in the gar­den behind my parent’s house under a huge stack of old car tires. I thought if I dis­trib­uted the weight of the steel-belt­ed radi­als in just the right way I could get my leg to break. You see, I craved win­ing the kind of per­son­al atten­tion that might only come with a leg cast and a set of crutch­es. Grap­pling with my per­son­al issues like a mod­ern day Don Quixote became a metaphor for grap­pling with life. Ulti­mate­ly, many more obsta­cles will stand before me and my dreams, but only I can ever pre­vent myself from achiev­ing those dreams. Win this award with your next dream.

10. Win the Change Your Sto­ry” Award

Ulti­mate­ly, our words cre­ate our beliefs, our beliefs cre­ate our actions and our actions cre­ate our real­i­ty. What do you want your sto­ry about win­ning to be? You’re the writer. Change the words and you’ll change your real­i­ty. Win this award by writ­ing inspir­ing words on the back of your hand.

Slash Cole­man is the author of The Bohemi­an Love Diaries, the per­son­al per­spec­tives blog­ger for Psy­chol­o­gy Today, and an advice colum­nist at how​doi​date​.com (Ask Uncle Slash). He wrote, pro­duced, and starred in the PBS Spe­cial The Neon Man and Me which also won the Unit­ed Solo Award for best dra­ma and is cre­at­ingThe New Amer­i­can Sto­ry­teller for PBS. He is the Feb­ru­ary 2014 fea­tured author for Ask Big Ques­tions as part of a new part­ner­ship with the JBC,

Slash Cole­man is an award-win­ning sto­ry­teller and per­son­al per­spec­tives blog­ger for Psy­chol­o­gy Today. A reg­u­lar Sto­ry­telling mag­a­zine con­trib­u­tor and per­former on the nation­al sto­ry­telling cir­cuit, he appeared most recent­ly on the NPR series How Artists Make Mon­ey. He lives in New York City and is cre­at­ing The New Amer­i­can Sto­ry­teller for PBS.