Winning is life. A need to one-up everyone around you, to dominate everything you do, to rise to the top and own all bragging rights. Start from the bottom, crush the haters, throw up the Manziel money sign.
That intense sense of competitiveness can be found in great athletes: Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Serena Williams. But then there are the exceptions: LeBron James and Rory McIlroy succeed with smiles.
Extreme heightened competitiveness isn’t necessary to feel accomplished or happy. It works for some, yet it’s not a requirement. I never bought into it.
Of course victory feels nice, but so does working as a team and laughing through tough times and finding joy in every moment.
I love coaching kids’ basketball teams because they play with a pure passion that’s rarely seen in the more advanced levels. I remember one summer when I volunteered as a scorekeeper, and I watched one boy smile through the entire game.
I used to be that kid, straight cheesing as I ran around. At least until my mom scolded me saying, “You need to look more serious. Get your head in the game.”
Society has its way of knocking us down to the same level. There are sets of guidelines everyone follows, albeit frequently blindly. The general premise is to do whatever you can to be the best.
How about instead of putting our heads down and grinding to be the top dogs in our fields, we instead keep our heads up and attempt to be good teammates and good people? For just one second forget the need to be No. 1, and embrace the challenge.
For example, take the Lakers’ freshest fan favorite Nick Young, self-nicknamed “Swaggy P.” He pounded the hardwood for six years as a lesser-known role player for the Wizards, the Clippers and the 76ers. In 2013, the Lakers signed him.
Last year, while the Kobe-less Lakers were drowning in the despair of irrelevancy, Young emerged smiling — a bright spot in the darkness with a career-high 17.9 points on the season. He kept chugging, celebrating his three-pointers, enjoying his newfound recognition.
I’m all for that. I believe in “chill.” If stress and anxiety makes you feel good, then indulge — you do you. Otherwise, slow down and find the silver lining in the moment. Let loose, and let your shots fly, even if they don’t fall every time.
During one play last season, Young put up a shot and it felt good, so he began celebrating before seeing it fall through the net. It rattled out, and now the photo of him grinning while his shot pops out of the basket lives forever online.
He was living in that moment. He might have acted a fool, but according to CBS Sports, he signed a four-year, $21.5 million deal this year. A lapse of judgment that occurred when he was caught up in the emotions of an instant in time didn’t demolish his future.
Take a breath, don’t sweat the small things. Competition and success is important, but there is more to life than winning.
As published in the Oct. 2 Graphic.