This is a lesson that I learned through my son, Mikan, when he was nine years old. Mikan is a naturally gifted athlete who absolutely loves competing, and in his early years of baseball he was always one of the best players on his team.
But after four summers of coaching my son and spending hour after hour with him in the backyard working on the mechanics of his swing, rolling him ground balls, and hitting pop flies, I knew there was so much potential beyond what he was showing on the field.
Sure, every dad thinks their son is special, but this went far beyond just being able to hit, throw and catch a baseball. This felt nothing less than existential, even though I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling in that moment. Then it hit me.
Throughout my career I had always used my peers as a benchmark for professional success, and even though I had never felt the need to compete at work, I knew that as long as I was staying a step ahead of everyone around me, I would keep moving ahead. Mikan was falling into the same thinking with baseball – because he was always near the top, he never felt he had to work any harder than he already was. “Good enough” was good enough.
Given the fact that the kid was nine years old at the time and that he had never experienced competition beyond the house league in a tiny Chicago suburb, this was a perfectly reasonable way to see the world. But I was in the same place, asking myself why I should work any harder if I was already outperforming everyone around me.
This is an excerpt from 40@40: The Only Person You’re in Competition With is Yourself.
In celebration of my 40th birthday, I decided to write 40 blog posts to reflect on 40 of the most important lessons I have learned throughout my life. You can follow the full series here: