Sunday, May 30, 2021

Keeping Perspective

Tiger Woods won over 25% of tournaments he entered in his prime.  No one in his era came even close.  Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian.  Tom Brady won the most Super Bowl titles for a quarterback.  As a society, we celebrate the best/most/greatest.  Society goes even further to denigrate those who aren't the best.  The last player picked in the NFL draft is called Mr. Irrelevant.  A controversy erupted this week about a former basketball player who was picked #1 in the draft and then never played well.  Those players are still elite athletes making it to the highest stage in their profession.  Unfortunately, a multi-billion dollar industry exists that basically talks about relative strengths of elite athletes.  Elite becomes the standard that no one can live up to.

The norm permeates through to everyone, including our kids.  I was talking to my son a couple weeks ago about golfers.  Like many kids his age, anything less than perfection and winning is unacceptable.  I asked him whether the 2nd place PGA Tour golfer was good, and he said yes.  That is obvious because he is second.  I then asked him about a few middle of the pack PGA Tour golfers.  He said they weren't good.  I was shocked.  The players I named are top 100 golfers in the world.  They make a few million dollars a year and play a game for a living better than 99% of the population.  In his eyes, they aren't #1, so they aren't good.  

The elite perspective is impossible to live up to, and we all set that as the standard.  There will always be someone better.  Someone who makes us feel not as good about our own performance.  I don't want anyone to take that attitude into bar prep.  I hear it every summer.  Someone graduated higher in the class.  Someone completed more practice questions today.  Someone's simulated MBE score is higher.  Someone did something better, and thus, I am on the wrong track. 

Continued comparisons are crippling.  Don't let it stop you from achieving your goals.  Someone may have done more, but that doesn't mean you can't also pass the bar.  You can put the work in to succeed.  Don't compare yourself to the Tiger Woods of law school.  No one will get to that standard.  2nd, 3rd, and even 103rd still have J.D.s with the opportunity to become a practicing attorney.  Focus on the work you put in, and you will walk into the bar exam prepared.  Worry about what you can control, and you will be in a great position to succeed.

Everyone compares our own performance to others.  The comparison steals the joy of our accomplishments.  Stop the comparison and enjoy your opportunity to become an attorney.

(Steven Foster)

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