(This is a resubmission of the article I wrote yesterday. I changed the title.)
In his book Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success author and NBA former coach, Phil Jackson, emphasizes the need for players to have a team mentality instead of a me-mentality. He took on the challenging task of asking Michael Jordan to reduce the number of successful shots he made in a game. Keep in mind, Michael Jordan was averaging 32.5 points per game at that point, almost single handedly winning games. The coach wanted other members of the team to get more involved in the offense, resulting in a team win – not just a MJ win. Phil Jackson’s explanation to Michael: “You’ve got to share the spotlight with your teammates, because if you don’t, they won’t grow.”
At first Michael expressed his lack of confidence in some of his players and his hesitancy to let them have the ball. Phil Jackson responded, “The important thing is to let everybody touch the ball, so they won’t feel like spectators. It’s got to be a team effort.” It wasn’t an easy sell – to be sure – but Michael Jordan went with his coach’s plan. That seems to have worked for him.
Now switch to a different sport and a different player: Alex Rodriguez, or A-Rod as he is now called - unless you live in Seattle where their former Mariner shortstop is called “Pay-Rod” because of his greed when leaving the Mariners for the Texas Rangers.
David Brooks, syndicated columnist for the Seattle Times, wrote an exceptional opinion piece: A-Rod: the perils of self-preoccupation. This columnist knows how to clearly paint a personality picture – or should I say, personality disorder? “One of the mysteries around Rodriguez is why the most talented baseball player on the planet would risk his career to allegedly take performance-enhancing drugs?” A-Rod’s self-preoccupation prevented him from successfully managing his own talent. The columnist’s theory about those who are self-preoccupied is explained like this: “Locked in a cycle of insecurity and attempted self-validation, their talents are never enough, and they end up devouring what they have been given.”
Where does that leave the little league baseball player in his or her quest to mimic the bigger-than-life champions (pun-intended) such as Alex Rodriguez? Emulating A-Rod, or McGwire, or Sosa – or any other player who allegedly cheated to improve his stats – sends the truly talented youth down the wrong path.
Where does that leave you and me? Each time we take a chance, put ourselves out there and dare to make something of ourselves, we run the risk of failure. As A-Rod’s former NY Yankee manager, Joe Torre, once wrote, “There’s a certain free-fall you have to go through when you commit yourself without a guarantee that it’s always going to be good…Allow yourself to be embarrassed. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.”
As a “trying to become a novelist” novice, I’m definitely in a free-fall. There’s no guarantee that the seven months of writing my novel (so far) will be picked up by an agent or publisher. It’s highly likely that the 103,000 words I’ve written (so far) will be criticized so horrifically, that no publishing professional will want to be associated with me.
But I’m doing what I love; I’m doing what I know I’m supposed to be doing; so I’m in that free-fall and praying for a soft landing. I could try to cheat my way to publication – but copying someone else’s work (other than quoting and crediting them) and characterizing it as my own is a steroid that I’m not interested in taking.
I want to be proud of what I’ve accomplished – not ashamed – and I want others to benefit from the honest work that I do.