Monday, June 4, 2012
Credit for Excellence...
The highlight of my Sunday was watching Tiger Woods birdie three of the final four holes of the Memorial Tournament to win his second tournament of this year. The drama and irony of his win struck my fancy from many angles. There are many life lessons to be learned in observing this phenomenon.
Anyone who has attempted to play golf will understand the difficulty and significance of playing the game at a level where you can beat the best in the world more than once in a season. Golf is an individual sport. There is no one besides yourself that you can blame or give credit for your results. To play at the highest levels demands the greatest discipline, focus, talent...and yes, some perceived luck. Luck that you had the opportunity to ever learn the game. Luck to have the money and background it often takes to play the game. But, as I have always believed, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
I have written on this blog before of my continued admiration and support of Tiger Woods even though he has obviously shown himself to be an imperfect man...just like the rest of us. While he has been forced or chosen to live his life in the public eye due to his talent and competitiveness, he continues to do so with little apparent shame or excuses. His excellence has made him a lightning rod for criticism...and in some cases outright hatred. The venom I read and observed from the revelations that his marriage and fidelity levels were at a lower level than his golf game had me often shaking my head in wonderment at the fleeting value of fame and fortune. My how we humans love to shoot our own wounded...especially the ones we used to have on a pedestal.
I understand the public reaction to some degree. Society puts a lot of pressure on people to live up to certain standards that are oft times impossible to maintain. Many of us grow up living our lives to the expectations of others...our parents, families, friends and society as a whole. Very few of us ever get to the point in life where we can afford in our psyche to say "f--k that" and do what WE want to do. I have personally felt for Tiger as he has had to handle the reactions and opinions on a worldwide scale to his personal life. He has been betrayed by friends and fans alike who have criticized and kicked him when he was at his most vulnerable, weakest moment. The problem is that he went along with the sponsors and promoters in the world of golf who used his image and paid him mega millions based on his excellence, his competitive spirit, his dazzling smile...and as an example of a perceived "minority" being the best at something the world values highly. He actively promoted this image so should not be so surprised that the common people were hugely disappointed and even angry when they found out their hero was NOT perfect and was in fact acting out his "lower nature" much to our chagrin. My how we humans love illusion but hate reality...
I now predict that if Tiger Woods continues restoring his focus and winning ways, he will become even more beloved than when he was a 20 something year old multimillionaire with a beautiful blonde wife and a mega-yacht. He now has the potential to become the example of a fallen star who came back and made even more of himself than we ever thought he could. Having tried to play golf in my life, I am in awe that in such a reasonably short time Tiger could rebound from his personal tragedies of domestic failure and physical injuries, reinvent his swing, and by sheer determination return to dominate a sport that is nearly impossible to dominate. It must have been especially sweet for him to do this at Jack Nicklaus' tournament and nearing Jacks record career tournament win number at 36 years of age...almost a decade sooner than Jack did it. I would also argue that today's field of great golfers is much larger and in better shape than the golfers of just 20 years ago. I shake my head in wonder at this feat.
As I have reflected on myself in view of this subject, I continue gaining personal understanding and insight into my life. While I admire excellence in golf, music, tennis, writing, business and many walks of life...I see myself as a moderately advantaged guy for my age who has never really been the BEST in anything. Like most of us, I admire the best but have never had the vision, discipline or focus to BE the best. In some ways I see this as a blessing. I have to this point lived a life full of variety. I have always had many interests...music, sports, business, people, animals, travel...and to a degree have probably had my own share of ADD (attention deficit disorder). If I get bored with something, it loses my attention and I move on quickly to something else. To be the BEST at something would have required sacrifice of other fulfilling interests or experiences in my life. I really have few regrets apart from bunches of money lost here and there along the way.
I have had my share of ups and downs in life. I have overcome a few obstacles that have been in my way at times...and I have recovered from some significant failures. Yet, I pride myself in that I have never stopped pushing forward and spent little time looking BACKward or being bitter at fate. I continue to value friends and experiences of the past, but I mostly judge myself by what I will accomplish in the future.
Excellence is a demanding goal whether it be in sports, relationships or in business. I admire it wherever I see it...and I fortunately am surrounded by people in my life who are achievers. Excellence is all around me, and I am letting it rub off and inspire me.