Tiger Woods said: "Winning solves everything." I wonder, does it really? I have yet to see this proven out in life.
My coach had a different goal for us, however. He made it clear it was more important to become a decent human being than it was to win wrestling matches. He liked winning it just wasn't tops on his list of priorities. What a concept. That stuck with me my whole life.
As a career educator I always wanted to be the very best. I also had novel reasons for sticking it out in a very demanding profession. But I confess I dreamed of being named the best teacher in my field. That was the competitive part of me. I wanted to have the best program anywhere hands down and be the best teacher. Today my paradigm has changed considerably. Life has a way of smoothing out our rough edges and instilling a bit of wisdom. If we open our minds it beckons to us to listen.
There are some challenges with being on top of the heap one might do well to consider. Could there be a better approach than striving to be the best?
- Being the best is all about me as opposed to the team.
- It is not sustainable over time and creates scarcity in that it is never enough.
- The quest to be the best tends to leave carnage in its wake. Often it is at someone else's expense. It rarely or adequately rewards or recognizes the people that helped you get there.
- Such journeys promote a myopic view such as; how will this project propel me to the next level as opposed to how will this challenge benefit our team and provide them growth and satisfaction?
- Over time you begin to see your peers as competition rather than teammates. Or you look to see how you can leverage them to reach your goals.
- Inadvertently, you make yourself a target to those who are jealous of your success.
Roger Staubach, one of the Dallas Cowboys greatest quarterbacks, once said; "Winning isn't getting ahead of others. It's getting ahead of yourself."
What Roger said gives pause to consider doing your personal best instead of being the Best. This thinking takes the pressure off having to win all the time to striving to contribute to a winning team. It feels better to ask at the end of each day; Did I leave it all out there? Have I done my very best work today?
Joe Torre, a baseball legend in my time, said this; "Competing at the highest level is not about winning. It's about preparation, courage, understanding and nurturing your people, and heart. Winning is the result."
This thinking opens the door to becoming a collaborator and team player. It invites your heart to care about those you work with and invest in seeing them succeed knowing that their collective success ultimately will result in a win for your team.
I remember competing in the Spartan World Championship with a team from my local gym. we made an agreement to stay together no matter what. I resisted opportunity to pull out ahead and really excel, perhaps finish tops in my age group. Some of our teammates struggled and at one point I lagged behind as I noticed my teammate was having difficulty and I encouraged her to press on. She finished and if you could have seen her look of jubilation and that of the team at having completed 8 grueling hours together on a mountain of 40 obstacles you would not have wanted it any other way.
We didn't finish first, or second, or even third, but we left it all out there. Gave it our all and did our very best! We demonstrated the courage and grit to finish the race.
We are winners!!