It wasn’t a 100% binary equation. Gladiators could win, lose or “tie”. Not even all of the defeated were condemned to death. Despite these extenuating circumstances, one thing is most definitely certain, bad gladiators died. I have no desire to bring back gladiatorial games or anything of the sort but in some ways our pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.
In modern society the crowd would seemingly want every gladiator to feel like a winner. Swords would be made of foam rubber but helmets would still be worn just in case. Gladiators would be paired by skill level and the most likely death would come from boredom of the truly talented gladiators. While I am not a fan of truly “zero sum games”, there have to be stakes. Gladiators got good because they had to. Everyone knew that bad gladiators die, the gladiators knew this best.
By all accounts we do not live in a gladiatorial society nor would I truly want to. A bloodthirsty mob looking to revel in the pain of the vanquished is not where we need to go. However a world without stakes has no incentive to move forward. The same holds for an individual. What is at stake for you today? Have you set yourself up in a game where you can win, lose or tie? Or is nothing at stake today? Are you armed with your foam rubber sword hacking away at the same meaningless opponent that you fought yesterday? Bad gladiators of the past got to die quickly. Bad gladiators today die slowly while trying to reassure themselves that they would be lethal if not for this foam rubber. The price of finding out if you’re good or not is to risk the possibility of dying on the metaphorical sword. That might be embarrassment, finances, time or many other things but something needs to be at stake. So step into the arena, put something on the line and see what you’re made of!
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena!
I would not have been surprised if I annoyed the hell out of my former teammates. It’s not that I’m a bad player, I’m actually OK (or was). The annoying factor would come from two things in particular. First, I never shut up. I talk incessantly. Almost as if I were the unofficial play by play announcer for our team. The other would be my tendency to blame everything that went wrong on myself. Regardless of how small of an influence I had on a situation, I tended to focus on my little component rather than anyone else’s. If a goal was scored, it was almost always followed by an admission of guilt. As an intelligent human being and player, I realize that not everything that went wrong was my fault. It’s just not true. However I always wanted to exhaust the thumb before I went to the finger.
In a world where almost everything is on video, accountability is an easy thing to track, especially in sports. Who lost their mark or misplayed a pass is available in HD clarity. I’m not particularly keen on accountability though. It has its place. However responsibility is a much more interesting quality. People need to take responsibility. Accountability can be handed out and often leads to separation. Fingers tend to make enemies and excuses. Thumbs tend to make leaders and solutions. By continuously pointing the thumb at one’s self before resorting to the finger, a few very important things happen.
First, the thumbed individual sees him or herself a part of a larger whole which is influenced by the actions of all. Like the butterfly that flaps its wings and contributes to an eventual hurricane. A person willing to exhaust the thumb recognizes that they’re not working independently of the rest of the group, team, company or world. Every action of the individual has the potential to influence a much larger whole. Could a tiny gesture of kindness toward a neighbor influence the relations of an entire town or city? Absolutely! Especially if those actions are done consistently.
Second, the thumbed individual infrequently or never blames others. This posture creates fewer separations between people. Finding fault in others rarely creates better behavior. It usually only creates resentment for the person doing the blaming. Most people in this world are their own harshest critic. Giving them the ability to rectify the situation without judgment can go a long way toward future success. Fear of letting someone down is a much stronger motivator than fear of punishment. It also has the added benefit of creating better relations between people who are giving their best to each other and know that criticism (if it comes) will come with understanding.
Like anything else that is really important in life, not everyone will do this because it’s hard. It’s so much easier to lose your temper or “let off some steam”. After all things are often other people’s fault. Taking on this world view doesn’t change that. However it does get you focus on the only person that you can fully control, yourself. If you are in control of yourself, then it’s possible that you’ll end up where you want to go.
Have a great day!
Imagine it. A soldier walking through a jungle in a foreign land just as the rain stops. In the distance there is a rainbow. All of the sudden there is an attack from the enemy. The attack is repelled and the soldier marches on. The next day the rain stops, rainbow, surprise attack. This pattern continues for a week. On the eighth day, the soldier comes upon a beautiful waterfall. With the water plummeting from a height of over fifty feet, a mist above the surface of the water forms a miniature rainbow and soldier discharges his weapon several times into the falling water. There is no attack, so the soldier is sure that the enemy is dead. It is ridiculous, isn’t it? The soldier believing that the rainbow somehow caused or could help the prediction of the attacks. The truth is that we all do it at one point or another.
The combination of two things that have almost no association whatsoever is quite common. An undefeated streak and an unwashed pair of socks. Traffic and the driver in front of you. School and learning. WAIT!!!! That’s blasphemy! Especially for someone who has spent years as a teacher and vehement proponent of learning.
The problem is that in many ways the statement is true. School and learning have almost completely been divorced from one another. People recognize that at one point in history they went hand in hand. However that relationship has decayed in people’s minds. School has become a pariah that people only endure because they have to. Learning has gotten mistaken for its cousin, information. Since information is everywhere, people have no need to engage in the relationship with learning. So this once inseparable couple is now separated and only feign a relationship “because of the kids”.
This is an extreme picture of the present situation. While not completely accurate, it is not altogether inaccurate. School is in a precarious position because it only ever came into being because of learning. The point of school was to learn (especially how to think). In many instances that has been replaced with “The point of school is to get good grades.” Like the telephone game that many of us played as children, over time the message has gotten garbled and disjointed. Politicians, administrators, parents and teachers propped up a system that only partially meets its expressed purpose. Like the situation of rogue traders who bet on speculative numbers with the life savings of others, this could leave many people bankrupt.
So for now, my suggestion is double, triple or quadruple down on learning. If it happens at school, GREAT! If it happens elsewhere, GREAT! Learn about the things that are important to you and the people in your life. Dive deep into learning about yourself. How you work. How your mind works. How your emotions work. Not so you can be self-centered but you can find balance with the world. Learning is not actually the hard part as it happens all the time. The key is learning things that are useful and meaningful to your world. So if you are still in school, don’t think of learning as drudgery. Seek out those opportunities when school style learning overlaps with your life. If you’re already done with school, realize that you aren’t done with learning. Don’t try to kill the rainbow just because it was lumped in with something that you perceive to be your enemy.
Have a great year!
Many sports teams are in the middle of their preseason sessions at the moment. I’m sure that many players are working hard. It is almost a prerequisite for any level of success in the sports world. The reason that I hedge is that there is a higher level of effort that is more in line with the actual effort. That level of effort is called labor.
Work is a scientific or mathematical equation: force x distance = work. It also has particular connotations in our culture. Common words that are associated with work are: hard, job, difficult, employment and pain. While these may be common, I don’t know that I would describe them as positive. Although we recognize the value of hard work. Many people would look to avoid it.
The reason that I would change to labor is not because work and labor are synonyms. It is actually in labor’s secondary meaning that all of the magic happens. Although many people may make work and labor the same inside of their heads. Labor is the process of giving birth. In particular the final part before delivery. Taken as a whole, the process leading up to and including labor is no picnic. Talk to almost any mother and there will be stories of morning sickness, discomfort and pain leading to a crescendo of “ultimate pain”. At this point, work is sounding pretty good! The difference between the two is that at the end of labor, there’s a miracle to behold. Almost any mother will tell you that it is the worst pain but all is forgotten in the end.
So as you start any endeavor, go in with the idea that you are going to labor toward your goal. The pain and discomfort are part of the process toward the eventual miracle that you are looking for. In the end, the pain will be forgotten and you’ll be able to rejoice in the two things that you’ve created: your goal and the new version of you!
Go labor toward your passion today!