Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game. —Michael Jordan
Why was I struggling? It wasn’t the move. My family loved our new life in Naperville, IL. It wasn’t the company. In spite of the acquisition, we were pretty much left alone and viewed as very strategic within our new corporate structure. It wasn’t the money. At 28, years old, I was making more than I had every made heading a branch operation with over 30 team members. My chief complaint? I was bored.
My dad listened patiently as I described my struggle to get motivated for my days and my desire for more responsibility. He heard of my challenges with customers and the competitive marketplace. He listened to me talk enviously about one of my peers whose branch was double the size of my branch (as was his income). He endured my whining for nearly an hour before he smiled (I could hear it in his voice) and said “Phillip, I don’t feel sorry for you.” He paused for a moment as I absorbed his comment and then continued.
“I don’t feel sorry for you because you are in the game. Everyday, you get up and have another opportunity to play. You can swing for the fences or simply try to get a base hit but you are still in the game. I would have done anything to have the opportunities before you.”
Fast forward fifteen years and I’m talking with my oldest daughter as she struggles to adjust to her first semester in college where she is playing basketball on a scholarship. She is describing the brutal practices, an unsympathetic coach, and the impossible challenges of balancing schoolwork with everything else. Suddenly, I hear my dad’s voice in my head as I find myself telling her that she’s “in the game” and that “I would have done anything to be able to play basketball in college.”
For me, my dad’s comment was a reminder. It was an anchor to a point in reality. Perhaps I just needed someone to sympathize with my challenges for a while. Maybe I wanted him to tell me that everything would be alright. His call to gratitude and to taking a different perspective on the challenges, and opportunities, of my particular situation were timely. Though my daughter didn’t need me to tell her how amazing I thought her accomplishments were, she did need me to help her see the bigger picture in the midst of the adversity.
You see, every day is game day. We all wake up with opportunities on the horizon. We all walk into our days with new possibilities, new challenges, and the chance to be our best. We are living the infinite game and winning is simply the opportunity to do it again the next day. The circumstances will change, but our opportunity to be all of which we are capable remains.
Don’t like the game you’re in? Pick a new game. Tired of not getting enough playing time? Find another team or, better yet, improve your skills. In this game, there is a position for everyone and we set the measures of our own success. To play it well, you must answer two questions: What is my best? How do I strive for it every day?
Though I can’t answer those questions for you, I can tell you that you’ll know when you’re there. Find your game. Play your game. Be your best. Every day.