John and I just returned from a working vacation in Italy. We spent that last few days in Rome, it was surreal. Like an adult version Disneyland except that all of the attractions were real and some over 2000 years old!
Flying out of the airport in Rome I over heard a conversation that I want to share with all of you here. It was a cute family of 4 little girls — all dressed in identical striped jerseys (as was the mother). All dragging little knapsacks on wheels. They ranged in age from about 11 down to just over a year (mom held the baby’s tiny backpack pull behind).
I saw the family first at the check in desk and saw them again as we all headed up a very long slow moving escalator. I don’t know the conversation that occurred before but here is what mom was saying to #1 daughter as John and I moved in behind them. It is a pretty accurate account because I was so dumbfounded I wrote it all down when we got to the lounge at the top of the escalator.
“You are going to have to change your thinking you know, if you really want to be a famous actress you aren’t going to get there being who you are right now. You have to become more selfish (yes that was the word she used). You are going to have to become more aggressive, your thinking has to be about no one except you. Life has to be about; me, myself, and I for you. No one ever achieved anything in any competitive field of life without stepping up and pushing by anyone in there way as they single mindedly went after what was important to them. Do you hear what I am saying?”
I did my best to mind my own business but could not believe what this woman was saying to her, possibly 11 or 12 year old daughter. It wasn’t just that she was giving this “pep” talk to one so young, it wasn’t just what she was saying it was her telling her daughter she wasn’t good enough being who she was . . . that she had to change and become someone different.
I am sure there are people out there that are in competitive fields that have achieved some level of success with this sort of “singleminded selfishness,” but I would like to think they are not the norm.
I think the people that I have met in dog sports with this sort of attitude are the ones that are caught in a cycle of complete frustration. They often end up dumping dogs while searching for their next “great one” or just leaving the sport when they can’t sustain the success they crave.
I guess it all comes down to who you are competing against. I think this woman feels her daughter will not be successful unless she can be better than “someone else” and that is where her focus needs to be. But for me, most of the people I think of who have been massively successful in life are the complete opposite to what this woman describes.
I like to think success can come, perhaps even more easily with a philosophy I read about close to 25 years ago in a book by Zig Zigler who wrote;
“You can get everything you want in life if you can just help enough other people get what they want”
Look around our North America agility scene and you can see some amazingly gifted, competitive yet generously spirited individuals. People like Ann Braue who is constantly winning some National Championship or representing the US on some World team or the young up and coming agility super star Tori Self and you have two great examples of success without selfishness.
And if our little dog world is not a big enough scale of success for this woman I would serve up my friend Greg Louganis as an example of this thinking. Greg is perhaps the greatest diver of all time but, certainly his four Olympic Gold Medals makes him a worthy example of someone with great success in his day. Yet his attitude towards life is the furtherest you could get from the pollution this women was preaching to her daughter.
Likely very few of you reading this have any desire to be on a world team or run your own business. And I would hope any of you with children would already realize you may be sending your kid into therapy at an early age by talking to them the way this woman did. I didn’t write about this event today to get anyone to focus on the negative side of this post. The focus I am intending isn’t on how “terrible this woman is” but really to share an outlook that “competitive” is not necessarily “bad” or “selfish” and success doesn’t need to be at a “cost” to somebody else. It all lies in your definition of success and what goals you have set for yourself.
So if you are leaving a comment today please let it be about how an excellent attitude has influenced yours or others journeys in life.
Today I am grateful to everyone that pitched in to help out allowing John and I to have 2 weeks away from home yet a peace of mind knowing all was being well cared for in our absence. Thank you to everyone!