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?
How things work is way more important to me than how things look. My house testifies to this; I’m pretty utilitarian. I don’t go in much for decorating, display items and knick-knacks. Even my kids’ prized artwork never got framed or hung up. It’s just leaning against the window or the wall. Photos on the refrigerator or the mantle have been there for years. We can admire them there. That works.
The rest of their stuff is in boxes and bins or has been tossed. All except for the trophies. Those command three quarters of the shelves in the basement, stacked three deep, covered in many layers of dust. (Did I say I wasn’t much for appearances?)
What is it about our trophies?
I was already considering this before this uncomfortable sermon series, primarily because I have designs on those shelves. I want them for the books I have, ahem, collected. My kids are past the peewee, trophy-every-season stage, so can’t we get rid of the “Mighty Red Cardinals” statuette that we have in three colors?
I wanted to make it easy for them. I told them I would pull off the precious name plates, craft them into a memory shadow box and then find a good home for the trophies. I have always found it easier to part with things when I can find someone else who will use them. So I asked my girls, “Hey, how about we give those trophies away to some kids who would really enjoy them.” The response, “Mom, no way.”
Of course I never tossed any of mine either, but I am grateful to my Dad who had no problem with this. Not long after I moved away from home I received a thick, business sized envelope. In it were the name plates off of all my trophies – my sports biography in an envelope. At least the memories were preserved. I’m not sure what became of the wood and marble and the metal figurines. I hope someone made good use of them. That would add to their value.
That’s what the clean out challenge has me thinking about this week. Of what value is my “wealth” of stuff? How do I decide what stays and what goes? I ask myself “Do I use this?” How much use do I make of the stuff boxed in the basement? Are there things there that are precious but hidden? How about the t-shirts in the back of the drawer? Do I even remember where they came from? Generally, I close my eyes to it all because that’s just easier. Out of sight, out of mind. But now I’m looking.
Thank you, Floris UMC, for doing the hard part for us – inviting organizations to come collect our pass-alongs. All we have to do is sort through stuff we aren’t using and donate what someone else might. And you know what I found out? The Closet takes trophies! I wonder if my kids would even notice if I spirited a few off. Funny, I have no problem giving away their stuff.
For some reason this has me thinking of Thurston Howell III. Ye of a certain age will remember the “millionaire” (laughable now that a single million used to be remarkable, but anyway) stranded with his wife “Lovey” and 5 other castaways on Gilligan’s Island. The Howell’s brought loads of stuff for their 3 hour tour, all of it worthless on a deserted island. The show allowed us to laugh at their predicament while considering for ourselves: are luxury and leisure making me a laughingstock? (my daughter would add #first world problems)
I wonder how my lifestyle has been impeding me. It’s so easy to see what everyone else can let go of. Why is it so hard for me? Perhaps it runs in the family. My Dad still has a plaque on his desk that reads, “The man who dies with the most toys wins.” Next to this sits a very small silver cup from Green Lake Wisconsin. I awarded him that as a consolation prize when he finished dead last in a sailing regatta there one summer. Picked it up from a knick-knack store on the lake. I was probably 8 or 9 years old at the time.
I guess some knick-knacks you keep.