Friday, January 4, 2008

The best

My friend Craig and I killed a half-dozen plates of sashimi yesterday, belatedly catching up, ebbing and flowing between yesteryear and yet-to-comes, chortling between bites. After spending time with friends like Craig, I remorsefully kick myself: Where does time go, and why am I such a derelict friend? Great guy.

Craig played golf professionally for a few years. He was good enough to compete in a few mini tours and make a few cuts. Reality: There are 17,000-plus golf courses in the U.S. home to -- conservatively -- a scratch golfer or two each. Of the tens of thousands of domestic golfers who consistently break par (most of whom aspire along the way to turn pro), 100-200 or so make a living playing professionally. Brutal biz.

I asked Craig if he missed competing. Yes and no, he reflected; the get prepared, go out and compete rigor of trying to catapult a golf career was intoxicating, while reality -- quantified above -- was sobering. He's now living a full life, prospering professionally and enjoying as much time as possible with his wife and kids.

Is it worth it? Craig asked. Is what worth what, I replied. Being the absolute best at what you do.

In the hamster-wheel of life, the obvious answer is yes; pop and chill pill and jump off the wheel (i.e., enjoy life with your family and friends outside work), and the answer's even more obvious: No.

We talked about Tiger Woods, company CEOs and analogous top-of-their-field folks, the sacrifices and compromises they make in their ascension to and perpetuation at the top, the prosper or perish necessity to acutely focus and kick ass. Aspirational and admirable? Yes. Worth it and desirable? Nope. Would they (The Best) change it (if they could)? Silence.

I'm slated to chat with the Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy's current class next weekend. Two "entrepreneur in action" hours of who knows what. If you can't compete, don't (Jack Welch). Work hard, and harder. Failure to commit is committing to fail. Typical helium of a talk with aspiring entrepreneurs.

In reality, being The Best is in the hands and mind of the actor, not the perception of the audience. The prototypical entrepreneur's rodent wheel beckons a diligent climb to the perceived pinnacle, which is not realistic. Being great at what you do, enjoying (loving) what you endeavor, and ensuring you live a full and relationship-rich life counts. You can control your success and fulfillment.

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