When Winning Just Isn't Good Enough - Dangers of Being Too Competitive

“A GOLD MEDAL IS A WONDERFUL THING. BUT IF YOU’RE NOT ENOUGH WITHOUT IT, YOU’LL NEVER BE ENOUGH WITH IT.” (from the movie"Cool Runnings" based on 1988 Jamaican bobsled team at Calgary Olympics).

The quote comes near the conclusion of the film. Derice Bannock (played by Leon Robinson) asks his coach, disgraced Olympic gold medalist Irving “Irv” Blitzer (played by John Candy) why he resorted to cheating, especially when he already had fame and fortune. Irv tries to explain that he had to keep on winning because that was his whole life. Derice can’t still understand, so Irv then delivers the quote.

If you make it your sole purpose in life to just accumulate material items, wealth and fame, you’ll never be satisfied with your lot in life as you’ll always want more. Sometimes, you must just be happy and content with what you have.

If some of you are competitive like I am and like to set high standards and goals for yourselves, then this message is for you. Last summer I spent time with Dave Klassen, National Director from Athletes in Action. Dave works as a chaplain with pro teams in Vancouver - BC Lions, Vancouver Canucks and the Vancouver Stealth. He also oversees, trains and directs pro chaplains across Canada in the CFL, NHL, NBA, MLS, NLL and other minor sports leagues.  Moreover, he speaks at a number of events and conferences throughout the year to a variety of different audiences. I originally met Dave at a breakfast meeting he was the keynote speaker for. As I love working in high performance and have done work with sports teams, I asked to connect while he was in Kamloops with the BC Lions for their training camp. Immediately, I could tell this guy was a serious force for good. We talked lots on the area of sport, psychology and performance and then, as I was asking questions, we got to the topic of "the other side of sport." For many athletes, or people who have built an identity tied to their business or career, when they move on from that career they find what Dave called "a void." I found that fascinating and profound. The attachment to identity created a sense of worth that was only satisfied in their mind when they were performing or winning...not from just 'being.' He mentioned examples of athletes who drop into deep depression and some go as far as suicide or die shortly after leaving their careers. Some get into drug or alcohol abuse to "fill the void" and mask the pain. Most these people figured out how to master their mind and body but never figured out how to nourish the soul - and that creates the void. Dave's said his role is to give players and coaches and others something deeper and more meaningful in their lives and he is a big part of motivational speeches to the teams during practices and games. He was competitive athlete himself and knows too well the dangers of tying your worth and identity to sport (or career) and how that can leave a void. This void is felt not just after leaving the career but can also be felt during the career. Materials things and masking the pain only provide a short-term distraction but the real work must come from within. You must fill the void at a higher level - a spiritual level.  I am not talking religion here specifically as spirituality means a lot of things to different people and religion may be only one area that applies. Some like nature and getting into the wilderness, quiet time, meditation, or a multitude of things and that is how they connect "spiritually."

As human beings we are like an iceberg. People, external to us, see our behaviour and the end result and, more importantly, what we choose and want them to see for the most part.  Much of what they see is the physical manifestations we produce through our behaviour and goods and services we own or produce – which some equate to success. For athletes it is championships and winning, for business people it may be money and status as just a couple examples. For some they may get an idea of the mental side of the person that helped get the results they see. However, the void that Dave talked about is normally hidden. For some this may be mental illness they battle with daily. Others it may be the focus on these external measures of success generated results they thought they wanted only to reach them and realize it cost them their health, marriage, relationships with family and friends, and general feeling of not being happy or satisfied making them feel “the void.”

As a foundation, high self-regard is key to success in all areas of life. You can’t buy it and it isn’t something you win – You develop it and do certain things to build and maintain it. You can also build upon it. Here at Grandesco College we have several programs that can help in that regard.  Gold medals are nice as are the other blessings that may come with a successful journey that is tied to a higher purpose and contribution aligned with your essence and being that supports and builds your self-regard. I know I have personally set goals and targets in my life thinking when I get that or achieve those then I will be happy or at least happier. I now know that is flawed. I still believe strongly in having clear goals and striving and stretching oneself to grow constantly. However, I need to do the check-in from time to time to ensure whatever I am doing and striving for has a higher order purpose (HOP) and brings purpose and meaningfulness not just to my life but others. It can happen in the seemingly small things like the highs and kisses in the morning and at night I like to give my daughters (which by the way is actually a big thing). Or it may be even grander like building a school a year around the world to give children, who would not have the opportunity otherwise, to get education and possibly use that as a springboard to a better life for them and their family.


By: Corey Sigvaldason
March 29, 2018


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