What steroid are you tempted to use?
(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.
The world as we know it – the good, the bad, the ugly.
In a recent NY Times post, Catherine Rampell writes about how the economy is affecting Baby Boomers; more specifically that it’s not just a matter of postponing retirement, it’s the need to hold down more than one job to meet the daily – and future – essentials of their lives. Ms. Rampell is quick to point out, however, “(I)n the current listless economy, every generation has a claim to have been most injured.” Certainly that seems to be the case as I have heard that Generation X and the Millennials have complained that Baby Boomers are to blame for the state of the economy – present and future.
Of this I am certain – each generation before us, and every generation after us, will contribute positively and negatively to the world as we know it. I have to believe that every generation has pointed their fingers at generations other than theirs, and talked about the good, the bad, and the ugly that permeates their times. Let’s look at those generations as posted on CNN, American Generations Through the Years: (figures and personalities provided by the Pew Research Center and CNN)
G.I./Greatest Generation: Pre-1928; Kate Hepburn and George H. W. Bush
Silent Generation: 1925 – 1945; Martin Luther King, Jr. and Tina Turner
Baby Boomers: 1946 – 1964; Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan
Generation X: 1965-1980; Jay-Z and Tiger Woods
Millennials: Post 1980; Christina Aguilera and Mark Zuckerberg
We’re all struggling in some way, and we’ll continue to struggle as we mimic the overall consensus felt through all generations. There are carefree times, and then there are all the rest of our days, and we get through them, because we must. We’re better for it, but it doesn’t feel like that while we’re going through it. I have to look to Brendan Marrocco, a twenty-six year old Iraq war veteran who lost all his limbs because of a roadside bomb in 2009. In an Associated Press story, in the Seattle Times, Brendan said he could get by without his legs, but he didn’t like living without arms. “Not having arms takes so much away from you. Even your personality … You talk with your hands. You do everything with your hands, and when you don’t have that, you’re kind of lost for a while.”
The end of January 2013, six weeks after getting a double arm transplant, Brendan said the following at a coming-out press conference about how he’s made it thus far:
Just not to give up hope. You know, life always gets better, and you’re still alive. And be stubborn. There’s a lot of people who will say you can’t do something. Just be stubborn and do it anyway.
Sobering words, and ones that force us to reassess our current situations. I’m not trying to minimize what you might be going through, nor of what’s going on in my life. It’s just that I personally can’t help but focus on Brendan’s plight and then consciously turn my eyes away from my me-ness, and towards other-people-ness. Is Brendan worse off as a Millennial who lost so much but gained a huge dose of intestinal fortitude, defined as strength of character; perseverance? If it were me, I would be wallowing in a very deep pit of self-pity. That doesn’t seem to be Brendan’s current location.