Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"If I could be like Mike!"

Remember the commercial, with all the cute little kids playing basketball and the music playing in the background “If I could be like Mike?” I do. In fact, I still want to be like Mike. However, the other day after reading an article from ESPN The Magazine that was written about an interview with Michael Jordan, I changed my mind. In the article MJ compared how the NBA was when he was a rising star to how the NBA is today. He went from being Michael Jordan, a relatively unknown rookie out of UNC, to becoming known worldwide as MJ… mainly because he had a personality that fit the change that the NBA was making at the time. In his own words, the “stars lined up.” Once they had lined up, and the NBA realized what a special opportunity they had, the NBA partnered up with MJ and he became the face of the NBA.

In MJ’s opinion the NBA is now trying to find the next MJ. They are trying to recreate something that happened spontaneously in the past in order to create similar success. They are promoting up and coming stars as the next Jordan, and in essence, pressuring the players to try and fit the MJ mold. Jordan talks about how that is backwards, the NBA should allow the players to develop on their own, to be themselves, to allow their own personality to show through, and once they are established, then partner up with them. Makes sense, right?

I remember when I first went to the Missionary Training Center, I remember feeling as if I had to fit a mold. I felt as if I needed to completely reinvent myself according to the expectations of my teachers and leaders. I tried to do that, and I felt I was making some progress until after one teaching experience, I was told very bluntly how poorly I had taught. I felt like I did alright, like I had somehow filled the mold, the expectations. But in that experience, I realized there was not really a mold for a perfect missionary. I was an individual and was to allow my own personality to shine through as I did the work. I could let my personality show through when I taught, in fact, to be successful, I needed to be true to myself. Not that there were not changes and improvements that I needed to go through, there were and still are plenty to keep me busy, but the process was one that I needed to experience my own way.

The interesting thing is that the Scriptures admonish us to be like Christ. He is the perfect example, and He teaches us to be perfect, even as He and Heavenly Father are perfect. (3 Nephi 12:48) Some have felt a need to rebel against that, stating that diversity is good, and that if we all become like Christ we would lose many of the good things about ourselves. C.S Lewis gives an illustration that show how in our efforts to lose ourselves and become like Christ, we actually allow our own selves to shine brighter.

“Imagine a lot of people who have always lived in the dark. You come and try to describe to them what light is like. You might tell them that if they come into the light that same light would fall on them all and they would all reflect it and thus become what we call visible. Is it not quite possible that they would imagine that, since they were all receiving the same light, and all reacting to tit in the same way (i.e. all reflecting it), they would all look alike? Whereas you and I know that the light will in fact bring out, or show up, how different they are.”

Turns out being like Mike is a completely different process than becoming like our Savior. One process stifles you, while the other sets you free. The only way in which we can be true to ourselves, to truly find out about who we are is to come in the light, the light who is Christ.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

City of Brotherly Love?

In the everlasting fight to stay awake in class, I decided my only hope for today was to write my blog in my afternoon psych class. With the 45 minutes of sleep that I got this morning, I do not really know why I decided to show up to class, but I am here, and I might as well make the best use of my time.

This past weekend my roommates and I went on a road trip to San Francisco. We all had our own reasons for going: I wanted to see my sister and her family, Quinn wanted to see off his significant other (she’s going on a mission), Satish wanted to see Alcatraz and eat Ghirardelli chocolate, and Justin wanted to eat Chinese food. In addition to accomplishing all of the above, we were also able to make 2 music videos, take numerous pictures that I am sure are worth a lot of money, and start a Rock Band… kind of.

Interestingly enough, although I loved every minute of the road trip, with the possible exception of arriving home this morning at five and having to wake up at six for a meeting, I realized I am basically still living the dream, and was living the dream before we even thought about the trip. It was not necessarily San Francisco that made the road trip memorable, it was the people that I was with that made it unforgettable.

It started with four guys driving across the country in a little VW Passat. When one of those guys is a crazy Indian man, you are almost guaranteed that something crazy will happen. In addition to him cleaning the windshield with his pants, he ended up ripping his shirt off. This made it almost natural to start recording a music video. Although we almost died around minute 3:18 of the music video, we ended up getting to San Francisco in one piece. Justin, Quinn and Satish went off to see Claire, while I got to stay and spend time with my niece, sister and brother-in-law. The entire weekend was magical, as we got to see Alcatraz, eat an overpriced seafood lunch, yell Chinese idioms at old people in Chinatown, and hear a future missionary share her testimony. The exclamation mark was put on the trip as we left Claire’s house. Justin, Satish and I broke out into a rendition of “Kiss the Girl” as we tried to shield the two love birds from the views of her family. She then proceeded to grab Quinn and pull him in to top off her canteen.

We came home at 5 in the morning, and although we were groggy, we talked about how we had lived the dream. After my head cleared from the fog that inevitably comes with no sleep, I realized that the destination of the trip was not what made it memorable. The memories were formed because of the people I was with. The trip was amazing because I went on a trip with my roomies, and visited people that we cared about. We could have gone to North Dakota and I would have come home with the same type of feeling. After that epiphany, I realized that if I would just stop taking for granted those who I have the opportunity to associate with on a daily basis, I could always be living the “dream.” It’s funny how friends and family mean so much to me, but they are so easily taken for granted. It is so easy to think that the ties that bond you together are so strong that consistent effort is unnecessary to maintain those bonds. But, as with everything else in this world, if you do not put effort and energy into your relationships they will deteriorate. BFF can only be forever if both people are willing to work towards that. Families can only be together forever if we support one another in staying on the strait and narrow path. If we do not care enough to maintain those relationships in this life and work towards helping people get and stay on the path, why would we even want to have the opportunity for eternal families?

So I guess I need to be a better brother, friend, son, uncle, and nephew. I guess I better stop taking for granted the wonderful people in my life. I guess I should do a little bit more reaching out. Maybe if I did, my life would become one big “road trip.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods won yesterday. Surprised? I wasn’t. For some reason it just seems like he always wins. He’s 32 and just reaching the prime years of professional golfers, and he is already considered the greatest golfer to have played the game. There is always some young and upcoming player that is touted as the next challenger to Tiger’s throne. But nothing ever materializes, and it just ends up being Tiger and the rest of the PGA Tour. He has all the money he could ever want; in fact, some think he will be the first billion dollar athlete. Over the years he has changed his swing, his coach, his caddie, his clubs, his ball; maybe the only thing he has not changed is his shirt color on Sunday. Through all the change, he continues to dominate.

I have often wondered what it would be like to get inside his head. To see what drives him. To see why he has not pulled a Michael Jordan and switched to baseball, just for something new and exciting. To see why he never sounds off when his competitors talk smack. To see why he still outworks those around him, when the gap between him and the next competitor is already nearly insurmountable.

Why is he an exception to the rule that you often fall to the level of your competition? How did he come back from his 1-over par 73 on Saturday to fire a 7-under for his largest come-from-behind win since 2000?

He is a freak of nature in all aspects. There is no other explanation.

Although I can not answer those questions and do not claim to understand what really drives him, seeing Tiger Woods continue to do his thing reminds me of something I have been taught my whole life. My dad always said, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. It’s whether or not you are improving.” When he would say that, I used to think to myself “That’s what losers say to keep their confidence up.” But now I think I am starting to see the wisdom within it. Think about Tiger. He won by eight strokes a few weeks ago, but in the press conference he talked about how he was disappointed with many facets of his game. His honest evaluation of his performance compared to his view of his potential allowed him to determine ways to improve and develop.

But I am not Tiger Woods, and golf is not my number one priority; following my Savior is. Unlike Tiger, to be successful in my priority I do not need to beat out someone else. Seems a little more conducive to the whole “compete with yourself” mentality, doesn’t it? But being the prideful kid I am, I still struggle with that. I get complacent when I feel that I am one-upping my neighbor, and my progress slows. I get frustrated when I see someone else who is not struggling with the same things as myself, and stop focusing on what I can do better and think instead about why this guy thinks he’s got it all figured out. Dumb, huh?

What’s even worse is that even when I am in the right mind set, and only competing against myself, I will sometimes think “Well I did better at that yesterday, so today I failed.” That mind set almost seems to be true. But that thought comes up short. It is lacking the eternal perspective of my Father in Heaven. He never compares me to others, only to my own potential. He does not even compare what I do today with what I did yesterday, because He understands that today is not yesterday. He recognizes that my potential to do something today might be a little less than yesterday, maybe because I did not sleep well last night. But I often over look that, and that short sightedness can lead to discouragement and despair.

Tiger seems to get this principle. He can bounce back from days in which the public claims he did not play up to his “standards.” He seems to not make excuses, but to take into account all the factors that contributed to the outcome, and make changes where he needs to. He stays within himself, and he plays his game, regardless of what others do. I think if I were to approach life the way that I feel Tiger approaches golf, I would be more optimistic, recognize more ways to improve, and be happier as I understand that all I can give is all I can give. If it is not as much as I gave yesterday, so be it; as long as it was all I had.