I asked a few of my volleyball players this question and made sure they knew I didn't want an answer out loud. I just wanted them to analyze their personal philosophies to promote a team-first mentality. The question was, "would you rather play every point of every match on a losing team or play less time on a winning team?" Okay, so there may be a bit of fallacy in that question since there are probably a few more options, but the application to life might just outweigh the use of logic.
My sports journey was modest at best. Yes, I made all conference in softball for second base, but that was because our bunt coverage could not be beat, which wasn't really my doing either. Our catcher and pitcher were so on point, all I had to do was stand on first base and catch their throws. It was so stressful, but their skills helped me get an award for being where I was supposed to be.
In the sport I love the most, volleyball, I didn't get to be a starter or play very much until my junior year (thanks to Margaret for breaking her leg), and boy was that a fun season for me. But with the limited amount of actual game time I played in four years, it never once occurred to me not to be part of the team. I loved the game, I was a contributor in practice, and I had some shining moments here and there. I never considered it a waste of time because my whole purpose was to play a game I loved. More importantly through that experience, I took away knowledge. Knowledge of the game, knowledge of athletes, knowledge of people, and knowledge of how a team works. That knowledge helped shape my career.
When I think that if I had said no to being part of a team because I didn't get the playing time I wanted (notice I used the word 'wanted' not the word 'deserved'), I realize I would have missed out on even more special and meaningful times. Thank God I said yes.
So would you rather be on a losing team while being the star or would you rather contribute to the success of many by doing the job they ask of you? If your answer is both - you might need some more lessons on what Team is all about.
My creative writing students remember lessons with the objective of telling Bob to shut up. Yes, we use those words in my classroom, and Bob deserves it. Bob is the name chosen for the inner critic we all have within us. Often, he's good at grammar and plotlines, and thinks he's an expert on what the audience wants. But Bob is wrong, and after a few weeks of beating the inner critic down, you very easily could have witnessed students of mine mumbling the words, "Shut up, Bob" or whatever they may have called their inner critic.
Writers and many creative types fall prey to the pressure to be correct the first time. Their inner critic tells them each idea is crappy, and they probably have erased more ideas, sentences, or whole novels than they want to admit. I didn't figure out the whole "Shut up, Bob" principle until I went to grad school. That's where I learned that I was my worst enemy; I was editing before I ever wrote anything down. I had done that my whole life. My pattern is that I need roughly three levels of crap before I find the gems on which I can work. It takes a lot of fight and perseverance to get through three layers of crap.
Writers are vulnerable to people's opinions, and that vulnerability twerks with the writer's confidence which then invites the writer to critique before it's time. There is a time for editing and there is a place for Bob, but we have to keep Bob reigned in until it's his turn to shine. And, while confidence can grow with experience and success, vulnerability is always palpable for the writer. That means Bob will always need to be told to shut up. But he's strong and can handle it because he knows he will have his day.
(Apologies to any real persons named Bob who may have taken offense.)
I'm either the smartest dumb person or the dumbest smart person ever to exist. Okay, so this might be a bit hyperbolic, but it feels very true in my life as what I am about to share with you is the type of thing that happens to me All. The. Time. Last night I decided to make a tuna casserole (please set aside your opinions on tuna or casseroles in general for the sake of the blog post). I cut up the onions and celery then began mixing all the ingredients in a large bowl. It felt familiar; until it didn't. Once I put the noodles into the bowl, the task became downright difficult to the point I started talking to myself: "Why is it so hard to mix noodles with creamed soup and cheese?" But I kept stirring and stirring, hearing the crunch of noodles against the spoon until it finally dawned on me...I had forgotten to cook the noodles.
Wanting to turn an embarrassing incident into one of meaning, I started to wonder if the uncooked noodles couldn't represent how people try to live life everyday. For 29 years now, I have watched students take shortcuts in their education almost every chance they get. Just like adults who take shortcuts with their health choices everyday. Instant gratification is a much stronger driving force than the investment into the future self.
Now, my noodles were an unintended shortcut (I just poured broth over the whole mixture, covered in foil, then baked it anyway - it turned out edible), but the principle is still evident. When we skip steps like doing homework or exercise or cooking the noodles, the next steps in life become much harder. We need to be patient with the process of the things that we know are good for us because we make life harder when we skip small but important steps - like cooking the noodles.
Or, if none of that makes sense, I also learned that taking a nap before cooking is not for me.