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Not Your Usual Bouncer

Ready…go!

Each set off
at his own pace
with her own rhythm
in their own style.

tennis-balls-bouncing
Bounce.. bounce…. bounce. bounce…boun..ce bounceee.. bou..bbounce

Tennis balls,
in their joy and merriment,
leaping and playing,
of their own accord.

Until
bounce..bounce.bounce..bounce..bounce.bounce..bounce.
Became
bounce.bounce.bounce.bounce.

They were finished, then.
Fallen in,
Rank and file,
Orderly. Procession.

Oh, the sound.
Calling me,
To sameness, calm,
quiet, appeasement, rhythm.

So easy to slip in,
under the waves,
along for the ride,
go with the flow.

There was another sound.
Quiet, but clear.
Of opportunity beckoning,
between the bouncing,
between the bouncing.

Growing louder,
more insistent.
Am I the only one who hears it?

Close ranks! Tighten up!
and…Bbbbbbbbounce.
Rapid fire. Precision.
Poise. Focus.

Deliberately different.
Not disruptive,
Distinct.

It was a competition, after all.
There was a Prize.

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Prizes are for Kids, Right?

This from Seth Godin this morning. (He’s a marketing guru and motivational speaker and champion of the “common man,” so to speak)…

Ways to improve your performance:

  • Compete for a prize
  • Earn points
  • Please a demanding boss
  • Make someone else’s imminent deadline
  • Face sudden death elimination in the playoffs
  • Wear a heart monitor and track performance publicly
  • Go head-to-head against a determined foe

The thing is, all of these external stimuli are there to raise your game and push you ever harder. They are fences to be leaped, opponents to be defeated.

The alternative is to compete against nothing but yourself. To excel merely because the act of excelling without boundaries or incentives thrills you.

And the good news is that once you find that, you’ll always have it.

For me, sports and academic competition taught me that first set of principles for improving my performance. Seeking the accolade, the victory, the edge. When do we transition to the second way? Seeking excellence for its own sake? And once we do, do we stay there?

Thank you, Seth, for reminding me that the thrill I get from wax on – wax off, shine(!) is just as real and way more enduring over the long haul.

Now, what do I do about all that competition that is rabid for the victory in head to head competition? Remind myself, that’s how one learns. But that’s not where I want to end up. I guess the occasional slippage may be human  but my goal is to spend way more time in the intrinsic arena.

They say “you can’t go back,” but I think I can and do. Even when I do, as Seth says, “you’ll always have it.” It’s mine for a moment. Then I give it to the One to whom it really belongs. Then it’s ours forever. “Here God, will you hold my trophy (paycheck, certificate, diploma, recognition dinner, promotion) so I can get back to work?”

Perhaps the proof of its staying power is when I can celebrate, truly celebrate, the excellence in another’s product or effort without an ounce of envy or regret.

Of course, the best things can always be better, right?

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