Stop Trying to be Great!

01_WMT_33789_Olympics12_POV_370x270_GoldMedalParty_US_ENG_01Last year, National Public Radio (NPR) published an article in which a college commencement speaker delivered an address based on three main ideas:

  • Your time in the basement was well spent – Much of the real learning in college takes place outside of the classroom.
  • Some of your worst days lie ahead – Don’t sugar coat it…the world’s not always a fun place.
  • Don’t try to be great.

The instant I read those, I understood the first two.  But the third….What the heck?  Why not?  What wrong with “being great” as a goal?

Bear with me here…I think there’s some credence to the notion (but as always, I’m up for a debate on the topic).

To me, the power of the third idea is fairly simple.  Don’t try so hard simply to “be great.”  Instead, try hard to be YOU, to channel your passions into a career and life that meets your standards of fairness, hard work, diligence, or wherever your personal values lie.  At the end of the day, “greatness” is more in the eye of others, and quite simply, there’s just too much outside of your control.

Orel HershiserIn the mid-1980s, Orel Hershiser pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  As his career progressed, he won the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in baseball.  His win-loss record was phenomenal.  His earned run average was fantastic, one of the lowest year in and year out of all the active hurlers in the game.  But he didn’t aim to be “great.” No, his everyday goal was simply to prepare himself the best he could for each and every start.  Somedays that meant resting his arm.  Other days, that entailed lifting weights and running through the empty stadium.  On game days, that included ensuring an early rise and consistent routine in getting to the stadium and warming up for his start.  And some nights, the Dodgers shined.  On other nights, they stunk.

You see, Orel knew his reputation as a “great” pitcher would be based on his stats, his wins and losses, and his Earned Run Average.  But he also realized that on any given night, there were many variables outside of his control.  Even if he pitched wonderfully, the team might still lose, and conversely, he could pitch poorly and the team could still emerge victorious.  So, he focused on his own preparation and his work ethic.  If he did all he could to perform each night the best he could, well, he’d simply have to rely on external factors to determine if he’d ever be considered “great.”

Oscar WildeSo, the goal should not be to “be great,” but rather to face each day in the best possible manner to accomplish that which we need.  But let the results be the results.  Simply put forth your best effort, and ensure your best effort is fully aligned with your values and principles.  At the end of the day, let others determine if you “qualify” as “great” or not.

Just be your best “you.”  No one can ask for anything more….

One thought on “Stop Trying to be Great!

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