Friday, January 6, 2012

Can you afford the price of being the best?

Olympic athletes do the same activity over and over and over until it is as automatic as breathing. They build tremendous momentum due to repetitiveness. Their whole system is trained to the point of reacting appropriately to the demands of their sport. They go beyond thought and deliberate action to the point of instinctiveness. It takes that type of hair-trigger kind of a reaction to get the milli-second edge over your opponent. It is that minute twitch of a difference that separates the step of the gold-medalist in the Olympics from that of the silver-medalist. Is it in you?

But life is not the Olympics. The more we train to be an Olympic athlete, the less we are living. Reading the biographies of ultra-athletes like Neil Armstrong, Michael Jordan, Mia Hamm and Stephanie Graf, we see how specialized the demands are to be that good. It takes us away from our practical life. It takes that type of deliberate intensity focussed in one direction, at the expense of all other directions, to be a machine. A physical machine designed to handle all the demands that can come from the sport you have chosen to master.

There is power in being that machine. Certainly many envy the lives of the Kobe Bryants and the Michael Jordans of this world. They are rewarded with wealth, fame, adoration of millions of fans on top of personal satisfaction in knowing that they are one of the best in the sport. There are many many benefits that come from being a machine that is super-specialized to live up to all the demands of your discipline. When you can push yourself to the physical edge of your being, past everyone else, you achieve results in your sport, that few others can achieve. That is what it takes to be the best. Is it in you?

And as much as being a machine, and pushing yourself to the limit, can have its rewards, whether you are an Olympic athlete, a NBA star, a Wimbledon Champion, a business man or a full-time mom, this type of constantly challenging yourself to fit in a very specific mold, comes at a huge price.

Humans are not machines. We were not meant to only be one thing. For that we have machines.

But if we live our life like we are machines. Then who will be the humans in our society?

Who will do and be what no machine can do or be in our society?

Being human in a highly specialized world where roles in large companies are very narrowly and specifically defined, is harder than you think. There are many rewards in the corporate world that come from being a machine instead of being human. Push yourself a little more, be a little more machine and a little less human, and you will be rewarded with praises, more opportunity, a promotion and maybe a raise. What do you get when you push the other way and be a little more human and a little less machine?

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