0255 – A Lesson from the legendary coach Phil Jackson

Well, this is something worth sharing. It’s like my spiritual ramblings, put in readable terms.

From Sacred Hoops, Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior:

“My obsession with winning had robbed me of my joy in the dance. From that point on, I started looking at competition differently. I realized that I’d been trapped for years on an emotional roller coaster of winning and losing, and it was tearing me apart.

I wasn’t alone. Our whole social structure is built around rewarding the winners-at the perilous expense of building community and compassion. The conditioning starts early, especially among boys, and never stops. “There is no room for second place,” the late coach Vince Lombardi once said. “It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win and to win and to win.” How can anyone, from sports figures to sales managers, possibly maintain their self-esteem when this attitude dominates our cultural mindset?

Eventually, everybody loses, ages, changes. And the small triumphs-a great play or a moment of sportsmanship-count, even though you may not win the game. Walt Whitman got it right when he wrote, “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journeywork of the stars.” As strange as it may seem, being able to accept change or defeat with equanimity gives you the freedom to go out on the floor and give the game your all.

I used to believe that the day I could accept defeat was the day I would have to give up my job. But losing is as integral a part of the dance as winning. Buddhism teaches that by accepting death, you discover life. Similarly, only by acknowledging the possibility of defeat can you fully experience the joy of competition. Our culture would have us believe that being able to accept loss is tantamount to setting yourself up to lose. But not everyone can win all the time; obsessing about winning adds an unnecessary layer of pressure that constricts body and spirit and, ultimately, robs you of the freedom to do your best.”

I don’t think this needs much commentary. All I can say is maybe you and I and those people who live a double life – of spirituality and of profession – should reconsider doing so. Maybe you and I, whose aims have most often been about the self, should reconsider what it means to simply be alive.


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