Categories
Work

Being the best

Ok, thought experiment for you: If you had a few wishes to burn, would you want to use one of them to become the best in the world at something?

Twelve-year-old me would have taken that wish in a heartbeat to become the greatest basketball player in the world (I was, and still am, a maniacal fan of Michael Jordan). I would like to think that later-in-life me would also take it to be something a little more practical and altruistic, but, if I was honest, it would probably be something similarly grandiose and not all that useful to solving world problems.

Anyway, most people think that if my wish was granted I would be given near superhuman jumping capabilities and a near flawless ability to shoot over any outstretched arm (which, being one of the shortest and least fit kids in my school at the time, would have been a sight).

But what if, instead of me gaining basketball superpowers, everyone else lost theirs? If everyone had their abilities stripped away to below my level, the wish is still granted, technically I’m the best! Of course, there would be no more dunking and barely anything but long range jumpers and layups (right-handed only of course) would take place in a given game. It would be ugly, and everyone might think that, gee that’s pretty cool that guy can do a perfect (right-handed) layup every time, because we can’t, but how boring is this?

It feels like a lot of people who want to be the best at something would be totally fine with this type of outcome. It’s not about raising the baseline or “the love of the game”, but about making other people feel that they are less by showing them how much better they are.

Sports are an easy analogy but you can see it politics, business, your workplace and even your local school parent group or club. It’s easy to spot. Look for the loudest ones, the ones that always seem to be critical of others, seemingly unwilling to admit a mistake or be open to changing their mind.

The trouble is that in many cases we’re incentivized not to make the sport, a company, or a group of people better, but to show that we are better than someone else. This is all too common in the typical performance review/bonus allocation process in place at many big companies that encourage competition, but you can also simply observe it in siblings who want to earn favor with their parents. My daughter could teach a master class. In the end though, this type of behavior just ends with crying (adults and kids alike).

What if, instead of wanting to be the best player, you wanted to create the best game? Or the best product? Or even just the best family dinner?

By working on raising the baseline for everyone you will become better, and maybe the best, because being the best requires that you make everyone better.

Categories
What I learned last week

What I learned last week (#27)

Quote I most wanted to share:

The world needs you at the party starting real conversations, saying “I don’t know”, and being kind.

Charlie Kaufman

Favorite book excerpt from last week:

The most dangerous tradition we hold about work is that it must be serious and meaningless. We believe that we’re paid money to compensate us for work not worthwhile on its own. People who are paid the most are often the most confused, for they know in their hearts how little meaning there is in what they do, for others and for themselves. While money provides status, status doesn’t guarantee meaning. They’re paid well because of how poorly work compensates their souls.

From The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun

For a good laugh, make sure you read the replies: The long thread that accompanies this 20 things we’ve learned from TV tweet is magic.


An endless source of inspiration (and desktop wallpapers): NASA makes their entire media library publicly accessible and copyright free. Like Lego, NASA is in the upper-echelons of cool organizations.


A great explanation on color: As someone who is really into art and design (but doesn’t have a ton of technical training), this article on How to Not Suck at Color was a really useful and interesting read.

To really know what color is, we need to understand its ingredients. Every color breaks down into three fundamental attributes: hue, saturation, and value. You might recognize these characters from your favorite design app, though sometimes they’ll be referred to as HSB.


The behind-the-scenes story of NBA team branding: The story of How the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies Revived the NBA is an interesting read and includes a tidbit about team naming contests that raised my eyebrow.

Without the hype and critical praise that accompanied the Steven Spielberg’s film, it’s unlikely Raptors would have been a unanimous selection. Instead, we might have be cheering for the Toronto Huskies against the Warriors — prior to the NBA, the Huskies represented in the city in the Basketball Association of America in the 1940s. “The pop culture context made us predisposed to following that direction,” says Mayenknecht.

That April, The Star and radio station CFRB 1010 organized a team naming contest. Several dozen potential names were nominated, a list which included the Lakelanders, the Trilliums (Ontario’s official flower), and the Canadian Eh’s, but O’Grady claims that despite the ten names that were shortlisted, the franchise already knew which direction it was headed. “They were going to be the Raptors all along, [and the naming contest] was a smoke screen to let people believe they were part of the decision making process.” Even though Bitove and others were considering the possibility of naming the team the Toronto T-Rex, O’Grady says the franchise was driven by the notion that raptors, like birds of prey, travel in packs. “If Raptors barely registered, then that may have swayed Bitove a bit — ‘Let’s do another focus group’ — but those are all about sanity checks, to make sure not making colossal mistake,” he says.