Everyone defines success differently, but success doesn’t always define us.
My freshman year of playing football was the first time I played any organized sports activity, much less, football in Texas. In retrospect, there were rules and nuances of the game that didn’t ‘click’ for me until my junior year, however, I had my passion, a quick first step, and an unrelenting belief that constantly thought I was better than what my coaches thought of me. As the school year began, I finally got enough courage to talk to my position coach about my opportunities to play on the “A” Team. The “A” Team was the elite freshmen and the ‘real’ game that everyone came to see. The “B” Team was everyone who didn’t make the “A” Team, and only family members watched those games.
The coach looked at me and quietly shook his head in understanding while I pleaded a meager case to play on the “A” Team, but he said what I feared. The “A” Team was a bunch of monsters, and I knew I wasn’t good enough to start. If I was on the “B” Team, I would get to start.
“Doc. Do you want to be on the first team, or do you want to play?”
Why is the illusion of our personal greatness only overshadowed by the reality of failure? Not just failure, near cataclysmic, mind-numbing, out-of-the blue, asteroid-approaching-the-earth devastation that leaves you sitting in disbelief how things went so bad, so fast. We go through a mental checklist of ourselves, because of course, we can impartially judge ourselves. I’m perfect. Check. Everyone else is stupid. Check. I’m the smartest person in the room. Check. Headhunters are calling me, so I’m ready for a promotion. Check. I’m untouchable. Check. I’ve come this far, and I’m ready. I’ve answered all challenges, and my time is now. Right now. Today.
Enter, …Ivan Drago.
First… how could he lose? Suspend the belief Rocky III is a fictional movie and let’s dabble in the chorus of events. Drago is a piece of granite with boxing gloves and that haircut. Poor boxing technique aside, he’s destroying anything in the ring. The fact that he doesn’t speak much gives a more intimidating approach because of the ferocity and violence of punches makes him seem inhuman. He literally beats a man to death in the ring and then says, ‘if he dies… he dies.’ At his youthful peak, secretly juicing, training, on his home turf, with an entire country rooting for him; he has this, tiny opponent, called ‘Rocky.’
Rocky has hope. Drago has a humongous painting of himself in the arena. Rocky has been training in snow. Drago has been waiting for his moment. Rocky appears to be outmatched. Drago appears confident. Rocky has to get up several times. Drago has to keep knocking him down. The fight wears on, several punches are cinematically overblown, but mentally Drago, is psychologically beaten before he ever goes down. Each round, Drago realizes he is facing someone that does not fear him. He is facing an opponent that cannot be beaten by talent or intimidated by appearance. Drago is doing everything right and using the same formula, but the results are different. He is losing. The crowd is now chanting for Rocky. In an arena, in his home country; Drago is now alone, mentally assaulted and being worn down. Eventually, Drago finds himself flat on the canvas, defeated. Rocky is giving a speech through a translator while someone hands Drago a script for ‘Masters of the Universe.’ What’s the moral of this?
Character Still Matters…regardless of who has the hottest idea, fastest whatever, or best new App that can (blank); who you are is the core and essence of what you actually produce. If you find yourself explaining weaknesses rather than owning them, you only justify your inequities to cover the fact you have no intentions to be a better person. No matter how talented you are, you are an eventual letdown.
You Can Be Broken… you are not the smartest person in the room. You can possibly be one of them. Anyone can be beaten. The minute you feel no one can think or possibly be as smart as yourself, you are already poised for annihilation. When you fight progress, people smell your fear. When you knock them down in their careers, they keep coming back. Until you break.
Complacency Kills Careers… you are someone’s inspiration. Someone is watching you, wanting to be everything you are, and imagining ways to be even better. The minute they see you slow down and relax, their pace quickens. No one runs a race looking behind them, but you run knowing you are not alone.
Talent is not Discipline… talent is what you rely on because it’s a learned skill that comes naturally through your abilities. Discipline is who you are when talent is not there. Discipline is what defines you when no one is around. Discipline fuels a strong character.
Self Deception vs. Self Evaluation… hearing someone’s assessment of you in any capacity can be painful, but it’s necessary. Those who live under the blanket of ‘knowing themselves better than anyone’ are missing vital truths we all see. The gaps you have are killing your career. Your boss isn’t the reason why you aren’t promoted. You are. No matter how many times you talk about your awesomeness…it’s still just talk.
I told my coach I wanted to ‘play football’ more than anything. I was on the “B” Team, and we got murdered every day in practice. My ego was nothing, and we only had our family members watching us. As the weeks wore on, I realized I wasn’t nearly good enough to play with the “A” team. I was having fun playing every week and learning more about myself through every victory. The “A” Team watched and cheered for us. I had serious flaws, but I had teammates who picked me up and made sure we stood together on Gameday. At the end of the year, we were the first team in the school history of football teams to go undefeated. One decision to sacrifice everything I wanted to gain personally led to me joining a bunch of castaways who for one season, …touched perfection, as a unit. 10-0. The best season I ever had.
For all the skills you have, for all the talent you possess; what will be the legacy you leave behind? What landmark achievement will your life’s relevance be tied to? If you could be a part of something great but no one will ever know your name, would it be worth it? I have no problems living a life talking about the greatness I’ve been blessed to be a part of versus my meager personal achievements that mean nothing for others. Everyone defines success differently, but success doesn’t always define us.