Cause Over Competition

@MrBrettClark 0 Comments




Sometimes I enjoy learning about myself more than anyone or anything else. I know. That sounds pretty arrogant, but I'm continuously amazed at how much I still have to learn about myself.

For example, if you want me to shut down, it's easy--put me in a competition. It's just not in me to be competitive against other people.  This is one of the many reasons I stopped playing sports at a young age; I make a much better fan than a player. I'll cheer for my team, and I'll analyze their actions and think of how they can improve. Of course, I'll do that for the opposing teams as well. 

Not that long ago I was playing basketball, and I was guarding a friend who is a lot better than I am. (Hint: most people are.) It was my job to guard him, so I was going to do everything in my power to stop him. However, he was draining every shot that night. If I guarded him closely, he just drove past. If I gave him space, he just shot over me. The thing is, every time he hit a shot, I felt good for him. It didn't bother me that he was embarrassing me. I was honestly happy for the guy.  I think I even gave him a high-five after a couple shots. It's not uncommon for a teammate to ask me if I know whose team I'm on because I'm happy either way, no matter who wins.

The last time I played organized sports is when I was in 7th grade. I played football. At the end of the year I was given the sportsmanship award. I will never forget about what my coach said about me.
"What I love about Brett is that even though he was a starter, he never complained one time when I took him out of a game. When I wanted to put him back in, he was easy to find because he was right next to me cheering on his teammates." 
None of this is to brag. It's just who I am. I am only in competition with one person, myself. The only person I want to be better than is the person I was yesterday.  It is what I loved most about Matthew McConaughey's speech when he won his Oscar. He said that the person he is chasing is himself 10 years from now.





This is what bothers me about the current state of education and what goes on in a lot of other areas as well. Everything is a competition. I constantly come across the mentality that if you don't give somebody a person to compete against, then they won't strive to compete at all. I push back against that mentality.

I want to give people a cause to fight for, more than a person to fight against.  

When you are fighting for a cause, you always have something to compete for or against. People win enough championships, they eventually win enough awards, and they will walk away from competition. I don't know many people who walk away from causes.

This mentality drives so many of my decisions. This is why I tell my own kids they have my permission to not take their state exams seriously because I don't let them get pulled into this competition to have the highest test score. And we don't talk about grades in my house. I will sign a report card if I have to, but I will probably only skim it, if I read it at all. When my sons' state test scores come in the mail later this year, they will immediately find their way in the trash can without being opened. They don't get to compare grades or test scores with each other. I don't put my kids in competition. I just ask them that they be the best them they can be, and be better than they were yesterday.

One of the hardest times in my career was at the end of my first year of being an eLearning Coach. We had a team of 15 and my boss was given the task by his boss to rank us 1-15 because they were going to be cutting our team down by a number that not even my boss knew. Each one of us had to go in for an interview and just talk about the work we were doing. I thought long and hard about just bowing out and heading back to the classroom.  I loved my classroom, and I miss it dearly every day. I will miss that role until the day I retire. My best years are ahead of me, but I fear my favorite years are behind me.

I hated what we were being asked to do, go in and fight to beat out others, because our team was not in competition with each other. We were collaborators! We were brothers and sisters! But here we were trying to fight to stay in our position. So why didn't I just back down? Because of the cause. I love education and want to make our schools the best they can be. It's something that is etched in my heart.

So I went into that interview with the mentality that I was going to refuse to place myself above anybody else on my team. For the majority of the interview I talked about what each person on the team brought to the table. I talked about the different gifts each of us had and how well they complemented each one of us. I honestly tried to give my boss every reason to keep other people on the team over me.

The day I got picked to stay on the team, and five of my teammates were cut, was one of the hardest days of my career. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to fight for my cause, but I was crushed that my colleagues, my friends, had an opportunity to think less of themselves.

That is what happens when you make things a competition. You always have a winner, and you always have a loser. You give somebody a reason to feel good about themselves, and you give somebody a reason to feel bad and defeated.

When you have a cause, you are taking a situation that is already struggling and you're trying to turn it around. Let me say it this way: you are taking a situation where people already feel like they are losing and you're helping them turn into winners. Nobody looses when you fight for a cause.

We need cause-driven leadership! 

We need leaders who will have their people take on a cause and not a competition. I remember working in a school district where the mission statement was "Equity and Excellence for All Children". That's a cause I can get behind and I can fight to provide. The district I am in now is "Bridging Excellence and Opportunities". My current superintendent often talks about being the bridge between college and career readiness. Again, that's a cause I can get behind. It's not for me to decide where my students end up. I'm just going to be the best bridge I can be to help them get there. I'm not out to build a bigger and better bridge than other school districts. I cheering for those guys and gals. I'm pulling for each district around the state and beyond! We are all pulling the same direction. At least, we're suppose to be.

Not really sure how to wrap up this post. I could spend more time on cause-driven leadership and maybe I will soon. This post was more for me than anything. It's my 100th post on my blog. I'm a little bummed that it's taken me this long to click on "publish" 100 times, but here we are. I hope to get better at this, and I hope to write more often because I know I can. Me 10 years from now is blogging a lot more than I am today. Me 10 years from now has written a book and has his doctorate degree.

The causes that I am fighting for will still be there 10 years from now. I am not sure how much of dent I will make in them over the next 10 years, but I will make a bigger dent in them today than I did yesterday and it will be the best dent I can make. In the end, that's the only competition I need. 

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