New Year, Be The Better YOU
“BANG!” The gun fires and the race is on. The runners take off across the field. It rained the day before and the ground is still damp. The temperature is cool. It is a perfect day for running. The line of runners quickly forms a pack. They move as one. As with any race, in a short period of time the stronger ones will start to pull ahead and the weaker ones will start to fall behind. But not Ben Comen. Ben was left behind as soon as the starter gun sounded. Ben’s not the fastest runner on the team. In fact, he’s the slowest. He has never won a single race the entire time he’s been on the Hanna High School cross-country track team. Ben, you see, has cerebral palsy.
The pack pulls farther and farther ahead while Ben falls farther and farther behind. He slips on the wet grass and falls forward into the soft earth. He slowly picks himself up and keeps going. Down he goes again. This time it hurts. He gets back up and keeps running. Ben won’t quit. The pack is now out of sight and Ben is running alone. It is quiet. He can hear his own labored breathing. He feels lonely. He trips over his own feet again, and down he goes yet another time. No matter his mental strength, there is no hiding the pain and frustration on his face. He grimaces as he uses all his energy to pull himself back to his feet to continue running. For Ben, this is part of the routine. Everyone else finishes the race in about twenty-five minutes. It usually takes Ben more than forty- five minutes.
When Ben eventually crosses the finish line he is in pain and he is exhausted. His body is bruised and bloodied. He is covered in mud. Ben inspires us, indeed. But this is not a story of “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” This is not a story of “when you fall down, pick yourself up.” Those are great lessons to learn, without a doubt, but Ben’s lesson is deeper.
Something amazing happens after about twenty-five minutes. When everybody else is done with their race, everyone comes back to run with Ben. Ben is the only runner who, when he falls, someone else will help pick him up. Ben is the only runner who, when he finishes, has a hundred people running behind him.
What Ben teaches us is special. When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you. But when you compete against
yourself, everyone wants to help you. Olympic athletes don’t help each other. Ben starts every race with a very clear sense of WHY he’s running. He’s not there to beat anyone but himself. Ben never loses sight of that. His sense of WHY he’s running gives him the strength to keep going. To keep pushing. To keep getting up. And to do it again and again and again. And every day he runs, the only time Ben sets out to beat is his own.
We’re always competing against someone else. We’re always trying to be better than someone else. We’re always comparing ourselves to others. What if we showed up to work every day simply to be better than ourselves? What if the goal was to do better work this week than we did the week before? To make this month better than last month?
What if the next time when someone asks, “Who’s your competition?” we replied, “No idea.” What if the next time someone pushes, “Well, what makes you better than your competition?” we replied, “We’re not better than them in all cases.” And what if the next time someone asks, “Well why should I do business with you then?” we answer with confidence, “Because the work we’re doing now is better than the work we were doing six months ago. And the work we’ll be doing six months from now will be better than the work we’re doing today.”
Sinek, S. (2009). Start With Why. New York: Portfolio.