Picking your battles
Often, the one who cares less wins
“There are a billion people in China who don’t care one bit about the outcome of our game.” Dean Smith
When I was young, I loved professional wrestling. In addition to watching “NWA Professional Wrestling with Charlie Harville” on Saturday nights, we would often go to the Greensboro Coliseum to see it in person.
One night, if I recall, the match pitted Johnny Weaver and George Becker against the Missouri Mauler and Brute Bernard (managed by J.C. Dykes). At some point, the referee had his back turned and the Mauler pulled a foreign object out of his tights and struck Johnny Weaver.
Suddenly, from the crowd a fan emerged, got through the ropes, and tried to attack the Mauler. Luckily, security was able to grab him before any damage was done.
Now, even in those days, when I was maybe 10 years old, I knew that this was a sad scene. This middle-aged man actually believed this and cared enough about it to attack one of the wrestlers and no doubt get thrown out of the arena.
There are many times in our lives when caring too much works against us. This has never been more true than now. We have celebrities and politicians who get in tussles over small matters. When I see this, I can’t help but think of that fellow in the work pants and white T-shirt who plunged through the ropes to attack the Mauler.
This provides a great object lesson to us. We do not serve ourselves well if we care too much about things that don’t really matter. I was listening to an interview with Shaun White, the much-decorated snowboarder and skateboarder. He said that while he liked his sports, he realized that these things were not his life. His life was having fun with his friends, being with his family, and doing other things he enjoyed. Therefore, especially as he got older, he found it easier to accept his defeats and failures. It wasn’t that he didn’t try to win (and he won more than anyone else); it was that ultimately he knew it wasn’t the most important thing.
Now, you might be saying, “Yeah, but how can I care less about something that truly is important to me.” I would suggest as an exercise that you take a step back and look at the entirety of your life. Look at your family, your friends, your health, your learning and education. Look at the welfare of those around you and of the world. Notice, also, how little nature cares about our money, sports games, our entertainment, and our awards.
This isn’t a suggestion not to be passionate. Most people would say I am passionate about many things. But I pick and choose carefully.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Criticism can sting. Sometimes a great deal. But you can choose who matters most to you. If someone you love and respect gives you feedback, it means much more than someone who doesn’t know you.
Remember that if you get bitter, the bad guys win. The best way to avoid getting bitter is to choose carefully what upsets you.