4. Blue Ribbons Require Sacrifice
After graduating from elementary school, my parents signed me up to swim for the summer. To a kid my age, this was probably the worst thing that could’ve happened.
You see, I was looking forward to being able to sleep in every day that summer. But in order to be on the swim team, I had to get up at some crazy-early hour of the morning that had a 6 in front of it. If I had been rewarded with playing video games at that crazy time of morning, I would’ve had more motivation to get up.
Instead, I was rewarded with having to work really hard against the water in order to move from one side of the pool to the other. Couldn’t I have just run from one side to the other? I would’ve gotten there much quicker.
The first few weeks of getting up early to go to swim practice were grueling. I fought it every single day. But then we had our first swim meet. I was put on a relay team with three other guys my age and we smoked the other relay teams. The next morning at practice, I was awarded my first blue ribbon. Needless to say, that was the last day I struggled to get out of bed in the morning.
Life Lesson: Blue ribbons require sacrifice. Being a beginner in a new sport, I had absolutely no idea what it felt like to be on a winning relay team, let alone receive a blue ribbon for our victory. This is why I didn’t want to get out of bed and go bust my butt at practice. But once I got a taste of victory, I began to experience a hunger for more of it.
Certainly getting up in the morning was a sacrifice, but after I realized how much I could gain from it, I was quite content giving up my mornings for the opportunity to win more blue ribbons. In life, we’ll find ourselves in places where we’re faced with whether to give up something good for something even better. Don’t get stuck holding onto something good and miss out on the opportunity to gain something even better.
5. There Will Always Be Ball Hogs
In seventh grade, I found myself playing basketball in my city’s recreation basketball league. When my team would get together to practice, we’d run set plays that we could then run in a game.
But when game time would come, our point guard, Brandon, would regularly decide to scrap the plays, dribble the ball to the edge of the 3-point line, and fire up a shot. It didn’t take long for me to get extremely frustrated with Brandon. I would get open and call for the ball, but for the most part, he refused to pass it, choosing instead to fire up yet another shot from behind the arc.
Life Lesson: There will always be ball hogs. Whether you’re playing on an athletic team or working on a team at your job, you will encounter people who would rather try to do it all by themselves than work together as a team. Working alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing; there are job opportunities out there for people who like to work alone. But when a team has been organized and tasked with an assignment, the team will be much more effective when it works together to complete it.
6. Do What’s in the Best Interest of the Team
It was my senior year of high school. I was the captain of our varsity baseball team. We were in a game against one of our conference rivals and losing by one run. The bases were loaded with one out and I was the next batter.
As I made my way to the plate, I looked down the third base line to Coach Bowman to see what he wanted me to do. He called the play. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He signaled for me to bunt. Really, a bunt? The bases were loaded. Why bunt? I wanted to swing for the fence.
However, I nodded my head in agreement, stepped up the plate, and swung away at the first pitch. Strike one! I looked back down the third base line to my coach. This time with a disgusted look on his face, he once again signaled for me to bunt. I refused.
For the next five pitches, I refused to bunt, and got walked instead. I thought to myself, “We scored a run anyway and I didn’t have to get thrown out in the process. This actually worked out better for the team.”
But Coach Bowman didn’t see things the same way. As soon as I got back to the dugout, I was pulled from the game and got to watch the rest of the game from the bench.
Life Lesson: Do what’s in the best interest of the team. Standing at the plate with the bases loaded and not being known as the team slugger, my team needed me to sacrifice myself in an attempt to score a run, not try to be the hero who miraculously hits a grand slam. But I wasn’t willing to lay down my own interests (padding my stats) for the interests of the team.
In life, we all have our own goals. But when we are placed on a team, the team’s goals are much more important than our goals. If everyone on the team adopts this perspective, then teams will be able to accomplish so much more than they would be if they had a bunch of individuals all pursuing their own individual goals.
Have you had similar or vastly different experiences? Is there a particular lesson that stands out to you?