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Spring 1998
Boo Who?
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Our societal obsession with being No.1 is unhealthy. Great -- set high goals and bust your ass to achieve them. But don’t get so caught up in winning that you lose sight of all you might learn along the way. And for heaven’s sake, don’t forget to have fun. The have-to-win-now concept, dominant in today’s gimme-instant-gratification world, is an example of very short-term thinking. Memories of triumph and joy should be gathered along the way -- might as well enjoy the journey.

Doc Parham says that winning is an outcome. When people become obsessed with outcomes, they lose sight of who they are. “When we are caught up in the outcome rather than the process, there’s trouble,” he says. “If you are trained to go the journey and value the process and push yourself at every level, then the outcome really doesn’t matter because good fortune is going to come.”

When you ask old-timers what they remember most about winning a championship, their answers inevitably revolve around the camaraderie of teammates and working together to achieve the goal -- very human aspects of the experience. Rarely do they mention the attention or the fame or the glory.

That proves it. What we learn on the quest is more meaningful than the reward we get at the end of the road. Repeat after me: It’s only a game.

Coach Wooden, who has a uniquely principled view of sports and their place in society, defines success as “peace of mind that is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” He never spoke to his players about winning, only about doing your best. Vince Lombardi is often credited with the line “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” In fact, it was former UCLA football coach Red Sanders who originally coined the phrase. What Lombardi did say was “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.” A much better attitude and perspective.

Society’s obsession with winning is just too simple; in many ways it dumbs us down. No room for subtlety. No accounting for the complexity of the variables involved. It’s like bigotry: When all you see are stereotypes, you have no chance of getting an accurate picture. If winning is your only goal, all the telling details get lost. And you’re smaller for it. Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those imposters just the same . . . yours is the earth and everything that’s in it.”

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