Life isn’t a race to the top [UPDATED]Published 5:12am Monday, June 10, 2013 Updated 7:18am Monday, June 10, 2013
As I kid, there were many times when I have heard the statement, “Life is not a competition.”
At this point in my life, I wish I would have taken at least a little of that to heart.
As long as I can remember, I have been competing for anything and everything.
I competed for getting the best grades in school. I competed in sports. I competed for how many friends I could acquire in college. I competed to find the house that most resembled “Animal House.” I competed for girls.
Later, I competed to advance in my career. I competed for Pot O’ Gold titles. I competed to see how fast I could run a marathon. I competed to see how low my weight could be. Financial goals, social goals, anything you can think of, I feel I have to compete, to compare myself to others.
I also hate to lose, to fail. And when I do fail, I can’t help but get depressed. Many times, I gave up competing. When I first started to ask girls out, I received a few turn-downs; the old “I’m flattered, but…” As a result, I essentially stopped asking girls out between the ages of 14 and 21, and never went to prom.
As a short kid who didn’t run fast or jump high, I failed to get playing time on the youth football, hockey, basketball or baseball teams. I quit those sports.
There were parts of my life when I gave up competing. Obviously, my participation in golf, running, triathlons and other things has kept me competing over the years, comparing myself to others.
Over the past couple of months, however, I’m wondering if all this competition has worn me down.
Is life really a competition? Do they ask you at Heaven’s gate whether you made enough money, had enough friends, really pushed for your personal best time in the marathon, or played to the lowest golf handicap your potential will allow?
I already see issues with my daughter. While she is not a huge sports nut, she certainly is a competitor, based on how she reacts when she perceivs she has lost or failed. I am not proud of this. I wish she could simply enjoy the activity she’s doing.
I don’t doubt that competition drives success. Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys, admits that listening to the Beatles’ album, Rubber Soul sparked a competitive fire that led to the album, Pet Sounds, considered one of the greatest of all time.
There’s no question that in sports, competition inspires players to get better.
The problem is, not everyone can win, or be successful. Not everyone goes on to become a rock star, NBA basketball player, president of the United States, CEO of a multinational corporation, or famous author. For those who live to compete, how do we live with the fact that, for 99.9 percent of us, we never will achieve our dreams.
At my age, that is particularly true. I’m never going to be a professional athlete or a rock star. And while there’s still time to be an author or hot-shot businessman, the odds are that I won’t become the next John Grisham or the publisher of the New York Times.
But let’s face it: life could be a lot worse for myself, and most of you out there. I have a job I enjoy, a wonderful family, I’m in reasonably good health and I enjoy hobbies such as golfing and running.
Maybe it’s time to take a break from competition. Maybe it’s time just to enjoy what life has given me. I don’t know.
Sheryl Crow once said, “It’s not having what you want. It’s wanting what you’ve got.”
We all need to start living that credo.
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On a lighter note, the dawn of summer (as late as it may be) means it’s time for the Hot Shots photo contest. We’re looking for great photos of summer activities: water sports, golfing, fishing, and just about anything that says summer. Email your photos to email@example.com You can also bring them to The Journal via a CD, flash drive or hard copies. Pictures must have people in them, the top three photos win prizes, the best photos will be printed in The Journal, and all photos will appear on our web site. The deadline is Aug. 19.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s publisher. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org