April 28, 2023

So, you wanna be the best?

I was beside myself.
Jigging up and down in my seat and head-bopping to the music.

We were in the Prince Edward Theatre in London’s West End.
The show was ‘Ain’t Too Proud’: the story of The Temptations – the iconic Tamla Motown group.
The quality of singing – the harmonies – was extraordinary!

Even our youngest daughter (28 years) was smitten.
(“What, she knows the words?”)

They spent a decade striving to be the best. Better than Diana Ross and the Supremes. Better than everybody. They delighted a generation of teens (and their parents)

But… but…
the show depicted the trail of broken lives and relationships… of distraught sweethearts and lonely children… strewn along the way. As they strived and strived and strived.

It’s tough being the best.

In business. In life.

When we thrill at athletes and others straining to be the Best in The World, in the country, in the county… the moments can be memorable. Inspiring. Heroic.

Yet few of us stop to ask about the personal price they pay.
Few of us stop to ask: “Breath-taking! And are you happy?”

Pouring heart, soul, body and mind into even one subject can easily consume the most energetic years of our life. Which means that there’s little left for small matters like human relationships.

(Of course, striving is part of our survival mechanism. Our desire to improve. Our yearning to be praised. The emptiness arises in our lives when we don’t know when to stop!)

Because, the challenge is that we’re taught and hard-wired to indiscriminately and constantly compete and compare. Compete and compare.
We’re addicted to it!

The best in our profession. The best revenue in the firm. The best qualifications. The best house in the neighbourhood. The best car in the street. The best body in the gym. The best child in the school.

Then we reach a point in our lives (around, say, our much-teased Middle Age) when we look back.
And realise, with a hollowness inside us….
Most of it simply doesn’t matter!

So, what could matter more… than being The Best?

I noticed one answer in a popular film some years ago.
At the time it sounded rather corny to me. Somewhat of a platitude.
But, reflecting on it again and again, as time passed, and I observed more carefully…
I realised its pithy truth.

The film was ‘The Bucket List’.
And the line goes something like this:

“Two questions:
Have you found joy in your life?
Have you brought joy to others?”

Whether we’re striving to serve our clients…
Or seeking to bring out the genius of each member of our team…
Or investing in the complexity, difficulty and richness of family relationships…

Those two questions strike me as far more helpful, meaningful and selfless than…
“Am I The Best?”