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  October 3, 2014
Grappling with Success...


I often warn people: Somewhere along the way, someone is going to tell you that there is no "I" in team.  What you should tell them is... maybe not... but there is an "I" in independence, individuality, and integrity.

                                        ~ George Carlin
A few weeks back I had the opportunity to travel to Sacramento and while there I decided to look up my old high school wrestling coach...

Coach and I stay in touch on a semi-regular basis... checking in with one another when we are able.

These days, Coach runs a wrestling program for middle school kids instead of at the high school level (although Wrestlingmany of his kids do eventually end up wrestling at the high school level).

With cutbacks in athletic programs all over the country, his wrestling program is run on a shoe-string budget... but unfortunately often is the case where the shoes attached to the shoe strings are simply not included.

Coach never turns any kid down... if they can’t afford to wrestle (joining AAU and buying a pair of wrestling shoes)... he’ll typically pay for it out of his own pocket (at least this is what he did for me some 35 years ago).

At one point Coach and I attempted to create a charitable foundation to help fund his and other programs in the Sacramento area, but it turns out that creating a foundation is much harder than it first appears... so I just ended up writing a small non-tax-deductible check to assist with the cause each fall... it’s much simpler this way... and the money goes directly to the kids.

Back in high school, I was drawn to a sport like wrestling like a moth to a flame. 

As a freshman, I was no taller than 5’ 6" and weighed no more than 95 pounds soaking wet, and was slower than a snail on valium.  However, I had quick reflexes and possessed a good amount of strength and agility for my physical dimensions...

So after a failed attempt at freshman football that fall, I looked at my winter sports choices and discovered wrestling.

Fortunately the sport of wrestling is segmented by weight classes so I was no longer trying to compete with boys twice (or more) my size but rather someone within a few pounds of me.

The other ideal that impressed me about wrestling is that it is based completely on a meritocracy. 

Other sports, like football, basketball, or baseball offer comradery and team principles but it is the leaders, the coaches, who ultimately decide who gets to play on the field and who sits on the bench and after spending several months on the bench I decided that perhaps wrestling offered me some hope in which to actually participate.

Wresting is hierarchical built on a ladder system.  The wrestler on the top rung is on the varsity squad and that of the second rung is on the junior varsity squad (there are actually 14 weight classes - ranging from 95 pounds through 285 pounds). 

If a wrestler wants to move up the ladder... they challenge the person above them... if they win... they go up... if they lose... they remain in their original place awaiting a match from someone below them.

There are no decisions to be made by the coaches... all of the decisions are made on the mat... if I didn’t win... it was no one’s fault but my own.

Subjectivity has been entirely removed from the process... there are no politics... there is no class distinction or seniority (a talented freshman may beat a 4th-year senior)... there are no differences in each combatant’s equipment (primarily since there is no equipment to speak of)...

In this arena... the field is level... mano y mano... winner take all...

The contest is won by a combination of strength, stamina, quickness, experience, knowledge, preparation, and a sheer will to win.

Merit supersedes all other factors... there is no entitlement in wrestling.

Through extension of the ladder system, an additional life lesson can be learned ... you might ascend to the highest rung on your team... but then the real competition begins as your team ventures out, challenging other teams at tournaments and meets... going  face-to-face with another team’s best wrestler...

No matter how good you think that you are... there is always someone else out there who is looking to knock you off the highest rung... they possess more innate talent than you... they are working harder than you... preparing more than you...

There is no time to rest on your laurels... even if you’re on top at the moment... success is fleeting if you aren’t trying to constantly improve yourself.

The sport of wrestling doesn’t necessarily have a monopoly on this type of competition... tennis, golf, swimming, track and field and boxing all exhibit many of the same characteristics of wrestling (although golf and tennis do have some possible equipment inequalities).

Wrestlers and other individual sports participants may belong to a team (for training purposes), but in the end, their success is derived through individual achievement.

Millions of years ago... mankind started out as a pure meritocracy...

If you were able to successfully hunt for food... you survived... if not... you starved to death... and just because you ate today didn’t ensure that you’d eat tomorrow... that’s the way it was...

In today’s world we have rugged individuals who embrace the ideals of merit and achievement... forsaking the safety of the group and mostly going at it alone.

People like writers, artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs who begin with nothing more than a blank piece of paper, a white canvas or the germ of an idea. 

The writer doesn’t know in advance if their work will be perceived to be good or not... but they know it is better to actually be bloodied in the battle than to be watching from the bleachers.    

They write because they have words inside of them that need to be released.

Vincent Van Gogh never sold a single painting in his own lifetime, yet his art has become the most sought after and valuable masterpieces 150 years hence.  Van Gogh didn’t let failure stand in the way of his painting.  He knew his works were masterpieces so he continued to paint.

This is the manner in which a true entrepreneur operates.  The true entrepreneur doesn’t create a company to create riches for themselves and their investors, they create companies because they have a seed of an idea that needs to germinate, grow roots, sprout from the ground, grow tall toward the light and one day hopefully bear some fruit for its effort.

In interesting aspect of individuality is that even if they happen to find success, there will always be someone looking to challenge them, to take over their place on the top of the mountain.

The individual must continue to work harder and harder to improve themselves and their work... develop new ideas... and to motivate themselves to continue moving forward.

While it is true that we all live in a community and are members of several teams, tribes, clans and/or like minded people... we are also individuals who feel the need to set challenges for ourselves as we grow and learn.

It is that individuality that defines us... and which gives us the spirit to enrich our lives...

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we support the individual in each and every one of us.

Jim Kalb

Email -  jimk@optifuse.com
Website - www.optifuse.com
Blog - www.optifuse.blogspot.com 

Twitter - @OptiFuse

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