“There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.” Indira Gandhi
I have tried so hard in so many arenas to be the best. Haven’t you? I have felt unappreciated, defeated, and stepped on along the way. Haven’t you? That’s the message drilled into most of us, though… be “the best.” I watched one of my children quit many activities in which he often was one of the best because he didn’t enjoy the pressure to stay the best. He didn’t enjoy the competition. My heart hurt for him. One day, I was asked to stop leading an activity I enjoyed, and I realized it was because I did it too well. It wasn’t ok with someone else for my best to possibly be better than theirs. My heart hurt again. I didn’t like this competition.
In all of the hurt, there is a message that most of us need to hear–there is room for each of us to be our best; there is room for you and for me to be better.
I am a good photographer. I love taking pictures. I’ve spent a lot of money on cameras and lenses. I am thrilled when people enjoy my photos. But get ready for the truth: I am not the best photographer out there. It’s shocking to me sometimes when I see the incredible beauty someone else is able to accomplish with a camera. There was a time when society had me convinced that I should feel jealousy or disdain for those who might be more talented than I, but be it age or wisdom, I came to embrace other photographers’ work without an ounce of ill feelings. The competitive edge has become a hungry to learn, collaborative spirit. I look at the pictures my friend Christy takes of birds and say to her “How did you get that? Can you help me to be better?” I look at the pictures Randy takes of basketball players and say to him “Can you help me be better?” And guess what? They, and many others, have said “Yes.” They have not been threatened that I might learn too much. Their kindness and willingness to share has allowed me to be better. You can see Christy here (Twitter) and here (Facebook). It’s worth your time to follow her.
I am a good writer. I love to write. I have been in a writing class for several years and have been plugging away ever so slowly on a book that is painful and for which I am passionate. I have greatly improved in my writing in large part because of those who surround me. They might be better writers than I, but no one has ever taken an attitude of needing to be the best. No one has been threatened by another’s improvements. We encourage and criticize each other in order to help each other improve–to be better.
I am a good mother. I am a good wife. I am a good daughter. I love being each of those things. I am not the best in any of these roles by the world’s ranking (lots of people have told me, don’t you know), but instead of feeling that I have to be as creative as Betty Belle or as good a disciplinarian as Laura or as great a cook as well, Laura again, or as wonderful a daughter as Betty Belle, I have a few friends who encourage me to be the best I can in those roles. Instead of feeling threatened that I’ll outdo them one day, they have allowed me to learn… to be better.
I am better because of those who have allowed me to learn from them without being threatened by me. What about you?
I do what I can to share and encourage others to be better than they are. What about you?
That’s the message we need to share and live well: Stop being threatened, stop being jealous, stop being afraid that someone else is more talented. Appreciate the talent another person has, the skills they have worked hard to learn, the way they make something look effortless. Allow them the spotlight. In the end, applauding them will make you better.
There will always be a student who makes better grades. There will always be a person who has a better body at the gym. There will always be a better writer, photographer, parent, spouse, child, friend. To many people, you are that person who is better than they. You can choose to be full–in awe and appreciative, or empty– jealous and jaded . Only one of those will truly make you better. There are two kinds of people. Try to be in the first group.