At Our Best

I’m a third of the way through Dr. Bell’s book. In a passage about success, he wrote this:

We in fact NEED others at their best because it is the way we make ourselves better. All historic rivalries were based on two greats performing at their best. Ali had Frazier, Nicklaus had Palmer, Magic had Bird, Federer had Nadal, Navratilova had Evert and so on.

Funny. On the Wimbledon coverage this morning, they talked about this very idea because of the ongoing success of Federer and Nadal. But when I read this, my mind wasn’t thinking of rivalries. I was thinking about teams and Dr. Bell’s theme of no one getting anywhere alone.

All team members should strive to be at their best. When they do, the team can’t help but experience improvement and hopefully unity. When they don’t, all sorts of dysfunction is possible. 

Being at your best means working at all areas of your life, by the way. Working at having a great home life won’t necessarily equal having a great work life, and vice versa. And neither of these will be at their best if spiritual life is ignored. To be at our best, we must avoid compartmentalizing and work from a full life perspective.

In our Thursday morning men’s group this week, we discussed Micah 6:8. Consider this verse. Consider how God has already made it plain how to be at our best:

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously. (MSG)

Winning at the Game of Life

(This is the ninth and final post in a series on wisdom from baseball; and how about it posting just a few hours before GAME 7. In this article, Mark Stanifer continues to mine his playing experience for insights into how to better play the game of life.)

One hundred and sixty-two regular season games. Three wins for the Division Series. Four more wins for the League championship. All for the chance to win four more games and be called the best in baseball. Only the Dodgers and the Astros have a chance to reach this final goal for the season.

Over the course of our article series, baseball has provided some excellent material for how to excel at the game of life. Of course, it is not a perfect analogy, but it is a good one.

Clear Goals Are Important

Last season, the Astros finished with a record barely over 0.500. The Dodgers lost in the League Championship to the eventual World Series winners. Both teams came into this season with something to prove, and they have. Although only one team will finish first, all the goal setting, planning, and hard work have paid off for both teams.

It’s likely that the other twenty-eight teams now watching the games on TV set a goal to win the World Series as well. Setting a goal does not guarantee it will happen. There are many factors which go into achieving a goal, some of which are outside of your control. But without a clear vision of what you are working for, how will you know when you achieve it? If the Astros had set their goal as simply “do better than last year,” it is likely they would have significantly underperformed. Winning the World Series is a big stretch goal, but it is specific and clear.

Team Effort

Each team has stand out players, but without the whole team, winning championships doesn’t happen. During this article series, we covered the importance of playing your role, doing the little things, and being the ideal team player. Suffice it to say, it takes a team to win the World Series.

It takes a team effort to win at the game of life too. Anyone who has achieved a level of success, broadly defined, has had help along the way. I don’t mean to diminish the individual effort. Instead, I want to emphasize the role that others — parents, mentors, coaches, teachers, partners, friends, spouses — play in their success. Moreover, truly successful people help others to be successful as well. MVP’s and all-stars garner a lot of attention, but I believe being praised as a great team player is a more desirable accolade.

Staying Focused

Spring training starts in March. The World Series sometimes finishes in November. That’s almost nine months of baseball, and over 200 games all told. How do teams stay focused for that long? There are multiple factors here, but I want to highlight one in particular. The players make a choice to stay focused on what they are pursuing — a championship.

Choices like this require sacrifice. I don’t mean to imply that a single minded pursuit of goals is always admirable. Rather, I’m highlighting a principle Greg McKeown writes about in Essentialism, which is this: “The way of the Essentialist rejects the idea that we can fit it all in. Instead it requires us to grapple with real trade-offs and make tough decisions.” Said differently, staying focused on your goals requires consistently choosing activities that lead to accomplishing your goals, and saying no to things that don’t. It also reinforces the importance of being clear about goals. Regrets arise from saying no to things that should have been a yes.

Not Just One Winner

The big flaw in using a sports analogy for life lessons is that in sports there is only one champion. Not so in life. A winner does not have to come at the expense of a loser. Winning, again broadly defined, is achievable for many. That said, let me be clear — I am not advocating for “participation trophies.” That diminishes the achievements and actions of those who have truly excelled. Rather, I’m advocating for a perspective that allows for many winners in the game of life, as each plays the game in the way they were created play. Some might call this an abundance mindset.

If I were to summarize this series in just a few sentences, it would be this: Be clear on where you are going and do what is yours to do to get there. Recognize the importance of being on a team and do the little things to help each other win. Realize that much of this game is mental and overcoming mistakes or failure will be critical. If you do all these things, it won’t guarantee victory, but it will increase your chances of living up to your full potential, and of winning big in life.

Sometimes You Have to Drive the Bus

If you haven’t read Jim Collins’ article “Good to Great,” follow this link before continuing this read.

Get the right people on the bus, then get them in the right seat. That’s what he says to the bus driver. Get the who before the what.

No argument from me. But here’s a question. What does a bus rider do when the driver’s seat is empty, figuratively or literally. Ever happened to you?

Sometimes, whether you want to or not, you are the teamplayer that must get in the driver’s seat. How or why this happens isn’t the point of this entry. But if you find yourself unexpectedly having to drive the bus for a while, here are five thoughts of what to do.

  1. Talk with everyone else on the bus…isolation leads to poor driving
  2. Clarify why you’re driving and for how long…fuzziness leads to poor driving
  3. Resist any urge to reroute the bus…hijacking leads to poor driving
  4. Don’t get comfortable in that seat. In fact, work at getting at ease being uncomfortable…aggressiveness leads to poor driving
  5. Remember your seat on the bus…confusion leads to poor driving

If you don’t care about the bus, be honest and do the right thing…get off the bus. If you care about the bus, take the seat and drive well.