Swimming lesson #2 – Your personal best is the only thing that counts
This is not for the softies – although my questions are somewhat soft.
Is winning the only goal even if it reinforces bad or mediocre performance? I think not.
And is losing the end of the world if a person has performed at their peak?
I think not.
Step outside of the pool with me as I show you what I mean by this.
Nowhere is this more obvious than on a tennis court on a sunny Sunday morning. There, you are likely to find the recreational tennis player who only hits lobs and make-me-cringe sliced shots. I guarantee that by playing that way, that person is beating a lot of other players and annoying the heck out of them too. However are they playing the best tennis that they have the potential to play? Far from it.
That person is so obsessed with winning that they are willing to do anything – even look and play funny – in order to win. In the case of this compulsive ball lobber and slicer, winning does not make them a good player.
Back to the pool.
As a competitive person myself, and not of the healthy kind, it was while swimming on a sunny Sunday morning that I learned to focus on my personal best, on the black line under my lane. Some would say that this means that I’ve lost my competitive edge. I say that I’ve actually discovered what real wining is about.
Is it true, that if I beat someone who performs at a lower level than mine, that I’m a good player? No because beating bad or mediocre does not make me good. What makes me good is being able to perform at my peak. And winning does not necessarily mean that I’ve achieved that. I now know that my ambition to win is a distraction because it tempts me to focus on outcomes, not on the task at hand. It’s when I’m able to be in the moment, focusing on the here and now, that I’m more likely to perform at my peak. At that point, it really does not matter whether I swim faster than the guy in the next lane or sell more widgets than my colleagues.
The black line under my lane has become a reminder for me, inside and out of the pool, to focus on my personal best. That black line is there to remind me that it does not matter how fast or slow the guy on the next lane is going. What matters is the pace of my breath, the follow-through of my strokes and the strength of my kick. That is what will take me to the finish line, not looking side-ways to figure out what the other guy is doing.
As Po Bronson says so well, “jealousy and envy are the enemy of creativity.”
The question for you sitting at your desk reading this, is are you so obsessed with winning, that you’re willing to stoop down to the level of the compulsive lobber/slicer, or are you determined to focus on the black line under your lane to perform at your best – at work and in life?