Ignore The Others, Beat Yourself!

“I don’t believe you have to be better than everybody else. I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be.”

~ Ken Venturi

Ken Venturi (1931-2013) was a US pro golfer as well as a golf broadcaster. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall Of Fame the year he died. He was runner-up at the Masters Tournament three times – the first as an amateur!

I selected this quote originally because it is very upbeat, and I love to focus on positive messages. There was a time, especially during my teen years, when I found it very easy to adopt a negative point of view. As I matured, married, started a new career in teaching and started my family, my negative outlook tendencies gradually gave way to a healthier, more positive attitude. As my children grew up to start their own families and I began a new career, I feel a sense of rebirth in a way. That’s an exhilarating feeling and it predisposes me to the positive message of Ken Venturi.

We live in a competitive society, whether it be sports, business, politics or the acquisition of personal wealth. We raise our children to be successful in life, and that means they must learn to be competitive. They are taught that they must strive to be the best. Two weeks ago, my granddaughter came home from school and seemed sad. After asking about her day, she admitted that she got a very good mark on a math test that day, but she didn’t have the best mark. Hence the disappointment. I understood. We raise our kids to believe that they must be the best in order to feel successful.

I’ve not heard too many parents tell their children that directly, but the message is clearly implied. We play card games to win. We play computer games to win. When kids are introduced to organized sports, they are taught new skills, so they can win the game. I used to love watching my kids play T-Ball. The umpires did more coaching out there than the team coaches! No one kept score. Both teams were told at the end of the game that it ended in a tie – no winner and no loser. Imagine – playing for a couple of hours just to have fun!

Am I suggesting that competition is wrong or harmful? I think it can be. When it spurs us on to be the best we can be, to strive for excellence, then it is a good thing. When it turns ugly… the opposing team is the enemy whose collective butts we want to kick… then I think we’ve crossed the line. How often have we seen parents on the sidelines verbally attacking game officials for the calls that they make. I’m especially disgusted when I see a parent yelling at a teenaged baseball umpire who missed a call. It happened to my son and I was there to stick my face into the face of the belligerent parent. Like all bullies, he backed off in a hurry. Thankfully, most parents aren’t like that.

Ken Venturi understood competition as a pro golfer and as a golf broadcaster. He didn’t play a team sport – he competed against a golf course! It doesn’t matter who’s watching, it all comes down to the skill with which I can play a given golf course. If I lose the match, it will be because someone else was more skillful in beating the course that day. They didn’t beat me! Have you ever watched pro golf? Notice the respectful and courteous way the players treat each other throughout the match. Now watch a pro football, basketball or hockey game. In those sports, the opposition is the enemy, and often the strategy is to beat the enemy physically. And they do – to the total glee of the crowd!

What I like so much about this quote is that Venturi is saying that we should be competing against ourselves. We need to become better at something than we thought we could be. It is another way of looking at personal growth. We achieve growth when we exceed our own expectations. I’m guessing he developed this belief during his golf career as he did battle against the terrain of a golf course and the conditions presented by Mother Nature. In each and every match, his score had absolutely nothing to do with anyone else playing with him. Imagine his exhilaration at finishing second at the Masters Tournament when he was an amateur! No amateur has ever won that tournament.

What about the rest of us who are not pro athletes? Growth is a very personal thing, and I would say it’s an essential component of our lives. I would like to be a better man, parent, grandparent, friend and writer – to name just a few roles I have in life. The first on my wish list is to be a better man because if I’m not growing in that respect, then that will negatively impact all other roles I play in life. I need to become a better man than I ever thought I could be. What does that look like?

 

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Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

6 thoughts on “Ignore The Others, Beat Yourself!”

  1. That’s a tough one, but I can understand it. To be better than one thought one could be comes from working to excel. I remember when I was still performing, I practiced everyday, morning, afternoon and night. The results were extraordinary. But when I practiced less, I believe my mind accused me even before I started to perform, and that accusation was enough to derail my performance. So, I came to understand that to excel, one has to work…work, work, without relenting. Then you will see yourself doing things you never expected you could ever do.

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    1. Joy, your life experience is so rich in wisdom, and we’re fortunate that you share it with us in this forum! Nothing of great value comes free on a silver platter. One can have dreams and talent, but without a strong work ethic there will be no growth or success. Thank you for stopping by today!!

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  2. I’ve referred to this quote on a number of occasions and try and remind myself of its benefits on a regular basis. The Special Olympics have a great message in “achieving your personal best” which for some is just showing up and for others its’ “winning the gold.”

    Success should be measured in achieving YOUR personal best whatever that may be. Unfortunately, we live in a society where much success is measured by outward material symbols and the “unquenchable” desire for personal wealth.

    Good points and inspiration, John.

    Peggy Hattendorf

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    1. So true, Peggy. I was very pleased to see a pro athlete espousing this philosophy. I remember as a teenager, I had a junior membership at our local golf course. Almost every single weekday morning, myself and three buddies played 18 holes before lunch. Some days I played well, but there were days when some of my clubs ended up high in a maple tree! Three decades later, I adopted a different goal for myself on the golf course. I would go hope a happy man if I had just one good shot with each club in my bag. Most holes I wouldn’t keep score. I didn’t care!! I drove my sons crazy! Then I gave up the game because it cost more money than it was worth to me. I have always struggled with competition – even if I only competed against myself. I’m sure that’s because I still have a tendency to take myself too seriously. Thank you for contributing to the discussion, Peggy!

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  3. I think the obsessive pursuit of being No 1 isn’t a good thing and it’s not helped by the media who raise expectations to fever pitch. Think of all the fantastic athletes who DON’T win a gold medal, whether it’s at the Olympics, or a local sports meeting. To see a silver or bronze medallist looking dejected on the rostrum at international levels always makes me feel sad for them – that being the second and third best at whatever it was meant so little to them. Just because they were second or third fastest/most skilled out of dozens of others who represented their nation’s best of the best, is still a triumph, especially if it’s a personal best!
    Being British I’m often ashamed of some of our team sports and their supporters when things get vicious, on or off the playing field. Even worse in some respects is the blame game that follows a defeat, even if the team has given 100% and we get endless ‘analysis’ looking for someone to scapegoat and heap scorn on, for what might have been a gallant performance in difficult circumstances, or just plain bad luck.
    Venturi certainly got it right about golf – it’s all to do with how well you perform on the day, even if you’re the only one you’re competing against! 🙂

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    1. It certainly is a cultural thing, in the sense that the sport that has the greatest emotional response will vary from nation to nation. Sporting events are wonderful when they serve to unite people, but it is my experience that sports divides people – because of the competitive component. It is so sad when violence breaks out among the athletes and/or the spectators. But your observation about athletes who finish second or third best and are dissatisfied is spot on! How can a person be unhappy with a silver or bronze Olympic medal? Thanks for your thoughtful input, Jan!

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