It’s time for some tough love.
I begin with my own, painful lesson. It happened during my morning run, as I was happily jogging by a favorite spot. Suddenly another runner came up behind me, passed me by and kept on going, leaving me in his wake.
I felt myself tense up. My competitive spirit immediately rose within me. My blood began a slow simmer. Why? Because anytime anybody beats me at anything I tend to feel the same way.
I hate it.
No, I mean it. I really, truly, hate it.
My normal response would’ve been to speed up, to try to match this guy step for step and then pass him, leaving him to wonder how he could possibly have tried to overtake such a fast and mighty being.
But then, as I watched his easy, long, graceful strides, it hit me. The guy was just faster. As I looked around I actually realized that there were many, many faster runners than me. Furthermore, no matter what I did there would always be faster runners than me. I’m just not built to be the best at it.
The reality stung for a moment. But then…I felt liberated. After all, if I couldn’t be the best runner around, then I could just focus on being the best runner I could be.
Knowing and accepting I’d never be the best at it actually made me free.
Know what else? I’m also never going to be the strongest person in the world. I won’t be the smartest, nor the prettiest. Despite my efforts I won’t be the best writer of all time nor will I have the most money in the bank.
And…brace yourself here…chances are neither will you.
In fact, it’s impossible. None of us can be better than every other person at every single thing we do. Even when we master a hobby or a sport or hold some kind of record…even when we are the most dashing person out there…
Someone else eventually comes along and steals the spotlight.
I make this point not to bring you down, but to free you up. In the competition of life we just can’t be the best at everything we do.
We can be our best at everything we do. We can beat our own records.
Great leaders do it. They make choices about the things that truly feed them, set new goals to achieve new heights, work on making themselves better and stronger.
We can do it, too. We can do more, experience more…be more. We can do it with integrity and grace.
- We can go after a big promotion because we can do the job well and it will grow us as a professional…not because we want to be the smartest, richest person in the world. We won’t.
- We can try out the game of golf because we think we’ll have knack for it and it’ll be fun…not because we want to beat out Tiger Woods. We can’t.
- We can try to run a half mile further than last week because we want to push ourselves to a new level of fitness…not because we want to pass every single person on the route. We’ll kill ourselves.
Now, let me be clear. You just might be better than anyone else at something – or you might feel you’ve got what it takes to get there. If so, go for it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive for amazing things.
What I am saying is that none of us can be the best at everything. If we try to be the best…the strongest, prettiest, richest person on the planet… we’ll not only wind up frustrated, we’ll also kid/kill ourselves in the process. It’s not good for us. In fact, it can really mess us up.
We can’t compete with the world. Instead, we must compete with our own status quo, growing ourselves, finding new levels of success and happiness.
That’s what I tried to remember after that runner kept on going ahead of me…and I took a right turn and sprinted up a new hill for the very first time.
The other thing I knew? That at some point, it would be okay to stop.
Free yourself. Recognize that you can’t be the best person of all time at everything you do.
But you can be – and continue to become – your best you.
After all, everyone is on their own, special path. And even if the guy in front of you has some kind of edge this time around, you can still kick butt in our own way.
And you will.
Now go do good…and do it well.