An entrepreneur's new business fails. A seventh grader receives the "most valuable player" award for basketball. A recovering addict fails to abstain. A singer auditions for and wins a role on Broadway. Everyone experiences some successes and some failures, but which has the greater effect on a life?

Some people bounce back from failure, some don't. Some people are so successful it seems like they've never experienced failure and vice versa. How humans respond to success and failure is the question put forth by the 2018 Great American Think-Off:

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"Which plays a larger role in shaping one's life: success or failure?"

This is the 26th annual Think-Off question - a classic philosophical quandary meant to inspire thinkers from all walks of life. Did winning push you harder to be your best? Or did losing motivate continued growth to overcome?

The Great American Think-Off is an essay and debate competition held each year in tiny New York Mills. 2018 marks the 26th year of the contest, which is free to enter and open to anyone, and has received entries from all 50 states and a number of international countries throughout its history.

To enter, submit a 750 word essay by April 1. Four finalists will be selected to receive $500 each, plus travel expenses and a chance to win the title of America's Greatest Thinker at this year's annual debate held on June 9 in New York Mills.

Essays can be submitted online at, by email to, or by mail to Great American Think-Off, c/o Cultural Center, P.O. Box 246, New York Mills, MN 56567. Finalists will be announced May 1.

The process for determining the annual Think-Off question is never an easy one, and typically, the committee tries to avoid trendy cultural questions, looking for more timeless philosophical topics; this year they have found just such a topic. Now the committee eagerly awaits the public's response through essay submissions.

For contest details and more information, visit or call the Cultural Center at 218-385-3339.

About the Great American Think-Off

Now in its 26th year, The Great American Think-Off is an exhibition of civil disagreement between powerful ideas being explored by everyday people. Designed to bring philosophy down from the ivory towers of academia and make it accessible for all, the contest has received national acclaim including coverage by C-SPAN, the New York Times and The Today Show.

The Cultural Center, located in the rural farm and manufacturing town of New York Mills, sponsors this annual philosophy contest and encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to participate. The Cultural Center is a rural hub for creativity, community vitality, and lifelong learning in the arts. Since our incorporation in 1990, we have been passionate about connecting people to artists and rich cultural experiences in rural Minnesota, celebrating the local and being a window to the world.

To get a better sense of the Think-Off, find details, historical information, and a list of the past 25 years of questions and winners on the event website: