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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What you do in the Shadows

My daughter returned from basketball practice and told me that she tries really hard to get the coach’s attention by exerting all the power and effort she can into running her sprints and being attentive during practice.  She wants her coach to notice her.  She wants to make her coach proud.
Interestingly enough, I wrote the following in my column last week:
“We want to win for the coach.  We want to win for our boss.  We want to succeed to make others proud.  When we are lucky enough to care about someone and something bigger than us, it moves us to perform at our highest level.”
And yet my advice to her was completely contradictory.  I read somewhere that it is the sign of a true intellect to be able to hold two opposing viewpoints in one’s head.  I surmise that was written by someone who couldn’t keep their thoughts in index but I’ll subscribe to the intellect theory as justification for all of my dichotomous thoughts that are at odds with one another.
I told my daughter that motivation comes from within.  Intrinsic motivation is what inspires us to perform at our highest level (aforementioned contradiction noted).  We certainly need the guidance and tutelage of others who have the skill to teach us, but they are not responsible for making us better.  We are.  
I told her that she needs to be doing her very best on the basketball court (and off) to become a better version of herself.  When we look at ourselves as our greatest competition, we continue to exceed what we believed to be our peaks.  We are always standing on the precipice of better and often times it is our own selves who keep us from achieving better.  
Perhaps this is because we are too busy making sure someone is noticing us.
It reminded me of the soccer great, Mia Hamm.  She had already received recognition for one World Cup championship, three NCAA national championships, two All-American teams, player of the year awards, etc.  As an incoming college senior and a player on the University of North Carolina’s women’s soccer team, she had already achieved so much.
Her coach, Anson Dorrance, arrived on campus one cold morning to see a person in the distance.  As he got closer, he noticed it was a woman running full speed 25 yard sprints over and over.  That woman was Mia Hamm.
He went back to his office and he wrote the following note to give to her:
“The vision of a champion is someone drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when no one is watching.”
Champions are champions because they put in the time to do the work that needs to be done -- even when no one is asking you to do it.   Hamm went on to achieve another World Cup Championship and two Olympic gold medals (among other accolades).  She worked hard in the shadows as sheer will as her motivation.
I know it feels good when people tell us that we are doing good.  We need that in our lives because it feels good to make others proud.  But praise isn’t what takes us to the next level.  If we work in order to get noticed, we aren’t going to go as far as we can.
Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.  They just are.

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