Monday, August 23, 2010

Ultimate Competition

I have a confession. I have little to no competitive spirit.

I know, dear reader, I know. Those of you who know me are not surprised. I am not saying I don't like to win, because I do. I am also not saying that I don't want to be better or try to be better than others. Because I do.

What I am saying is that when push comes to shove, if you want something, you can have it.

Tonight I played Ultimate Frisbee with some dear friends. Now, I am not what you might call an athlete. But I love to play Ultimate. I am also not very good at Ultimate. My friends, however, are kind enough to let me play.

Tonight, my team did not do so well. Some were bothered by this more than others. I would put my level of concern at the bottom of the list. I was just happy they let me run around like an idiot with them for a while. The only thing that bothered me was that I knew that some on my team really wanted to win, and I could not make that happen (in fact, probably hampered that from happening). But win for me? Yeah, could not care less in the end.

As I drove away tonight, I began to think about this part of me. This part that does not seek, enjoy, or really participate in competition. I began to be a bit worried. In a year, I am wanting to go to Law School. I have heard it is one of the most competitive academic environments one can enter. Everyone will be striving, fighting, pushing for the top. And I began to get concerned that I did not have the competitive edge to make it through the next few years. And then I began to think about what I want to do with my degree.

My philosophy has always been, I will do what I do. If you don't like it, cool. Let's go have a beer, and let it slide.

But what I want to do with my life is fight injustice. What I want to do is free children from the clutches of evil people who would use and abuse them to gain power and wealth.

You can't let that slide. You can't just nod your head and move on from that. You have to have a competitive edge. You have to want to win.

But I think we're gonna be okay here. Because I thought some more about this competitive thing. And see, it is true that I really don't care if I win. But I care if those that I love win. I care if the good guys win. Tonight, my friend really wanted to win, and while I did not care and could not make it happen, I really wanted her to be able to win (again, sorry I could not make that happen my friend, perhaps next time shorter fields and shinier frisbees to hold my attention...just a thought).

I only care to win when there is a greater win in it than mine. If you want to win with all your heart, then I want you to win with all mine. I want to do what I can to help you win. I will spend my time and energy to make that happen, if I can. I am a borrower when it comes to competition.

So when I go to school next Fall, I will not be going for my win. If I do, I will be content to just do well and let others seek glory. I will be content to just be a pretty good lawyer. I will be content to sit back and let someone else get the connections and accolades needed to make an impact in the legal world.

No, my win will not work. I will go for those I wish to serve. I will go for the God I serve. I will go remembering that I want to win so that those I defend can have lives they never dreamed were possible, and that evil gets the swift kick to the crotch it deserves.

If that sounds cheesy, I am cool with that. If you think I am a fool for giving that all over and doing it for the glory of a "big idea" cause that may not be attainable, if you think "doing it for the children" is too cliche, that's cool.

Call me, we will go get a beer.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Thinker

Imagine with me if you will. You enter a dining room. Before you there is a table laid out with intricately designed beautiful dishes. It is it by candles. Barely audible there s a blend of music that weaves its way into your subconscious, both soothing and inspiring you. As you sit, the chair is perfectly made to fit you at the exact height of the table. It is not overstuffed and lumpy, nor a hard wooden slab. You sit and wait.

The meal arrives. First a soup, not so filling as it is flavorful. With each rise of the spoon your taste buds practically leap from you tongue to embrace the smooth, warm broth. It wakens your senses and prepares your stomach to be filled with greater things to come. Second, a main course. The meat is a tender roast, cooked to perfection. Each bites melts off the fork. You find yourself chewing to excess, not because the meat is tough or needs processing, but because each bite is so good you do not want it to end. When it does, the only thing that consoles you as you swallow is the fact that there is another bite on its way. This is accompanied by a salad that is so fresh, crisp, and cool that it makes your body feel fresher just to ingest it. Finally, dessert arrives. Before you sits a culinary miracle. A cake so moist, so light, so perfectly baked that it is almost a shame to take a bite out of it. Almost. When you do, you are once again hit with a cornucopia of flavor. This time sweeter and thicker. The frosting is light, and accents the cake such that you cannot think of ever having eaten the one without the other. They are a perfect complimentary pair.

For me, my friends, a good intellectual conversation feels like that kind of a meal. A good intellectual conversation, where my brain is stretched and forced to accept new, even opposing thoughts, can be just as satisfying as sitting down to such a lovely spread as described above.

And tonight, I feasted.

Tonight, I went to a series of talks called TEDx KC. Some of you may have heard of TED Talks. They are presented annually at a conference. Originally set up to discuss what was happening in the world of Technology, Entertainment, and Design, they have grown to encompass all things intellectual and innovative. Some of the most brilliant minds in the world have spoken at TED conferences. And those talks are presented online for free.

A TEDx conference is a localized version. It has a similar format to TED, but is put on locally. The original TED conference has become such a big deal that one must apply to go, and it costs quite a bit of money. The local one I went to tonight was free, and I just had to be lucky enough to nab a ticket when they went on "sale". Which was harder than you might think they were out of tickets within an hour of them being available.

The speakers covered everything from new business strategies to how we interact with technology to human vulnerability to poop to how we inline gamers can save the world.

I will not cheapen the talks by trying to recap them here, I believe they will be up on the web soon. They inspired my mind in many ways, and I am still chewing on them some.

But they also inspired me to think a bit more about the conversations I have in everyday life. Tonight I saw 5 people who are the best at what they do present some crazy ideas. They are not the best at what they do by accident. They are the best a what they do because they have taken the time in their lives to discover their passions and then pursue them. And by pursue, I don't mean they just went out and bought some books and checked out some web pages. I mean they let their minds marinate on what they are passionate about. They asked questions of people. They set up discussions. They put their ideas out to the world, and let that begin to shape and reshape what they did.


One speaker tonight pointed out that much of our conversation revolves around media. We talk about television and movies as though we were experiencing them ourselves. We are comfortable with made up story lines because those problems are solved within a set context, and we can rejoice in the solution.

But how often do we engage in intellectual, mentally stimulating, original thought conversation. How often do we stop "exploring" the meaning behind LOST or Monday Night Football (I know, Sam, you just took in a deep breath) and have a real conversation about the world that actually exists around us?

I hang out with wicked smart people. I hang out with people who everyday solve problems, little and big, to make their worlds work better. I am not saying that you, dear reader, do not think. And I am not saying that I am not just as guilty of spending a huge percentage of my conversating time discussing Scrubs, Psych, and Date Night.

What I am saying is that tonight's delicious feast of deep thinking discussion got me to thinking about how much I love to go deeper. To have real conversations that matter and have a lasting impact. To have a conversation that was working towards a goal of better understanding for both myself and my fellow dialoguer.

If we really did spend our words wisely, talking over real issues, solving real problems, I think we could each begin to have some pretty amazing impacts in our own small spheres, which could even bleed out into larger spheres of influence. If instead of discussing the latest episode of Modern Family, we engaged in a discussion of energy conservation, aid to the poor in our area, how to reach out to children in need, or ways to build a better automobile, what would start changing in our lives? I don't mean every conversation has to be deep and meaningful. We certainly SHOULD discuss Modern Family, and often. But maybe just start working on shifting the balance. Let the mindless, entertainment conversations be the minority, let the expanding of ideas conversations be the lions share of talk.

See where that goes. Sharp minds sharpening other sharp minds. Engaged people engaging in the world around them.

Just a thought. Just a thought.