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February 26th, 2013


I'm the little one.
I'm the little one.

Competing – it’s in my blood.

I blame it on swim team.  During practice you compete, or are aware of the notion of competing, from the moment you dive into the water for warm up.  There is a fast lane and a slow lane.  The lanes are not gender specific.  Within those lanes, there is the fastest person – the leader of the lane, and there is the slowest person.  No matter who you are there is someone right behind you, just ahead of you, or right beside you.  Because everyone wants to move up in their lane and then over to the next fastest lane and then towards the front of that lane, it is guaranteed that most of the people in the pool will be “bringing it” for the majority of the practice.  It’s like this every day – all year long.

When I started swimming, for two long years I toiled in the slow lane – first as slowest person in the slow lane, and eventually as fastest person in the slow lane.  Before moving over to a faster lane, I joined a different swim team (year-round) - which put me back to tail-gunning the slow lane.  But as the old Cherokee, Lone Watie, discussed in The Outlaw Josey Wales (the greatest movie ever made), I endeavored to persevere.  I don’t know why, really, but the challenge was addicting and intoxicating, and I never felt discouraged or inadequate despite the fact that I was never the fastest (and was often the slowest) in the pool.

Based on my description, swim practice may seem like a cruel world.  But to the contrary – even though I was quite terrible at first, I aspired to be the fastest in the lane, then the fastest in the next lane – even the fastest in the pool.  Aspiration, fortunately, is a concept that can be learned and nurtured through healthy competition.  I know that the dynamics and competition of swim team helped me grasp the concept of bettering oneself.  I carry that concept with me to this day and apply it to as many areas of my life as I can - because there are MANY pools in life, after all. Even though I was far from the best in the pool – the competition made me a better swimmer -and a better person - a better parent, a better worker, a better spouse, a better partner, son, friend, sibling – you get the picture

My point is that we should not shy away from competition just because we’re not the fastest, and we should not steer our kids away from competition because we’re afraid that they can’t handle losing.  Competition - both winning and losing - can teach us good lessons.  After all, as the profound Steven Tyler of Aerosmith told us (since I’m quoting today), “You got to lose to know how to win.”

Anyway, as I watch my children compete in swimming, soccer, basketball, Jenga, Monopoly, walking around the block – one thing is abundantly clear.  I want to compete again – with other people.  I see my children’s drive and the drive of their peers and I’m reminded that healthy competition with others will encourage me to better myself as an athlete AND as a person.

So there – I said it.  I want to go to swim practice, group bike rides, track workouts, and races again.  I want to tell my workout partners and race buddies to watch their backs.

I most likely will not be the fastest, and that’s okay.  Because I will aspire – and that’s a good thing.

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