Friday, May 1, 2009

Keep things in perspective

What separates the champion from an amateur? We can spend a volume on this topic, but one of the key components is keeping things in perspective.

Kobe Bryant lives about fifteen minutes away from me. If one day we go one-on-one on the blacktop it would be a mismatch: size, ability, and preparation. Had the case been one-on-one in hacking into computer code before hot molten lava spills from above, the mismatch could possibly turn to my favor. What about if instead of hot molten lava, it’s just a bucket of water?

The point I make here is keeping things in perspective.

A pickup game at Kobe’s house: I know it’s just a game; he knows it’s just a game. At the end we both kick back with our family and just laugh. I may actually scored some points along the way. However, if I talked smack and he called me out at the Staples Center and all the world is watching, I will basically be fighting for pride, because I’m about to be the laughing stock of the year. Kobe may see the fire in my eyes, and to make sure he displays his skill and sportsmanship, he gets his game face on … and schools me, in style of course. This isn’t because he’s not under any pressure. It’s because he is trained to perceive the pressure situation and deal with it. He’s still under pressure from the fans at the arena and on the airwaves to perform in Kobe-style. He’s still under pressure to watch out for an over-aggressive opponent who might inadvertently injure him from a wild move.

All in all the champion will keep the situation in perspective. The champion knows it’s not a life or death situation. The champion knows this is just a game. The amateur, on the other hand, may actually perceive this as a life or death situation. The amateur begins to make mistakes because his perspective is off. Remember this is just a game.

In any level of sport: its regular season, quarterfinals, semifinals, or championship game, preparation is essential to keep things in perspective. Champions do not lose their cool at each stage. One of the differences between one-time champs or three-peat champs keeping each game into perspective. Some say this is keeping your cool. In the NCAA’s March Madness it’s always neat to see 15th seed teams progress to the next round. They’re the underdogs but for them it’s just a game, a game that they will play just like all the other games they played that got them to that 15th seed. The higher seeds may have lost their perspective and may not have played like all the other games that got them the higher seed.

As we progress in our school years, in our career, in our family, or in our life, condition yourself to put things in perspective. My seven year old son is going through multiplication exercises and should focus on those twenty math problems on the sheet. At homework time he should just look at this stressful event as what it really is, just twenty math problems on the sheet. It’s not going to kill him to work through them. He might as well pull in all those addition exercises he’s learned from previous stressful events. Remember, it’s just another sheet of math problems.

Expanding on this: you did not become Director of IT to panic at a server upgrade, you did not become the Pastor of a Church to panic at a scandal, and you did not make it to final round of Who wants to be a millionaire to panic on the last question. Keep your cool.

One day when I do have that one-on one with Kobe I plan to play it like any other game. I will not remember it as a day I missed my shots, walked, or tripped on my shoes. I’ll be just as clumsy with the handling, and I’ll be just as off with my shots. It’s just a game. Why ruin the moment? One thing for certain is that I played a game against Kobe, and I’ll remember that game as we sip on some drinks afterwards as we watch our kids play in the backyard.

There are far worse challenges out there that may actually be life threatening. Whatever life throws at you, accept it as a challenge, and put everything into perspective.


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