July 6, 2014
I’m not that smart or physically gifted but in the end this was a blessing. It made me and makes me try harder. While other people are much more talented, I feel I am able to achieve more due to their complacency. They say “grit” is a better indicator for “success.”
I may not have had stellar marks at university but I felt I knew more than most of my batch mates. I had other interests also occupy my time. To have academics and IQ as the only measures of human potential is, to my mind, quite short-sighted. Sure it is easier to manage what is tangible but it is not always the case that it is what is essential to the individual or to the organisation.
I used to enjoy playing basketball even if I was slow, short, and could not jump very high. I used my brain to counteract my physical limitations. We are so obsessed with winning that we often neglect that what is really important is we strive to better ourselves and we work toward realising our potential: it is about mastery and not success. You say that is what a loser would say but we are so enamoured with being number one and top ten lists that we ignore the fact that certain things are beyond our control. It is not an excuse not to try hard but whatever we attempt needs to be grounded in reality: the prayer for serenity is quite apropos.
My personal best is 33 straight shots made at the free throw line and 7 3-pointers. But what I enjoyed most was passing the rock to help facilitate the scoring of others. My most creative pass was one that I dubbed ‘Not Necessarily Behind the Back’ which was called as travelling by the referee. To this day I am still convinced that it was valid: it was so new and different that it created confusion and understandably led to that call. In high school I was designated as a player-coach of a team that won the championship. The clash of egos was our expected downfall but to everyone’s surprise we never dropped a game despite facing fierce competition. The players were so good that I had the luxury of doing a mass substitution: replacing all 5 players on the court with the bench. Juggling playing time was difficult but the secret of our “success” was that there was no pressure on a handful of players to always perform at peak efficiency. In contrast, my last 2 years were on a team that hardly won. We were not supposed to perform as “well” being a bunch of “nerds.” We may have not been premiers but had heart and played to the best of our ability. The point is to make the best of the cards you were dealt: you may not always get what you want divert your focus instead to what is truly essential.
Do not get me wrong: I endeavour to win every time I compete – it is just not my end all and be all. I still have fond memories of eventually winning a basketball game by 5 in spite of being down by 18 points with 5 minutes remaining on the game clock. That said, I remember distinctly losing 2 games: in both cases we were expected to lose. In the first, there were only 5 of us (which we had trouble even achieving) but 12 3-pointers among us: I think I made 3 of them. We gave our opponents a good run but were defeated when 1 of our players fouled out towards the end of the game. The other one was against a much stronger side. We slowed down the pace to an excruciating tempo. They clearly wanted to run the ball and as a result were obviously frustrated with the speed of the game and made quite a few mistakes. They eventually won but not with the huge margin they expected.
Society loves winners. I am not saying you forego the rules and expectations: you have to play the game if you want to get anywhere. Just try to be conscious of the choices you make and be aware of the compromises and repercussions of your decisions. I am not saying you should abandon idealism just learn to temper it with pragmatism. Our desire to emulate certain people is an evolutionary imperative but it can be tricky given the culture of “celebrity” we find ourselves immersed in. It is now difficult to be your own man more than ever. I am not saying you should not be influenced by others; just be discerning.