“Logan is an extremely talented athlete”, coach said. I held my breath wondering what was coming next. The relationship between Logan and his coach is at times full of tension with two-sided conflict and only one- sided expression. The revered coach’s expression typically occurred in game situations. But here I sat at the High School Basketball Banquet listening to Coach give accolades to Logan and his teammates for the 2014-2015 Basketball Season. All three coaches, each of their respective players, complimented them on a fantastic season, for their hard work and diligence, and their unending efforts for the team.
By starting this moment of honor for Logan with “is an extremely talented athlete”, I was surprised to hear such a compliment roll off his tongue so smoothly. I waited patiently for the BUT. No literal “but” came forth from his mouth. I wondered of the effort it took him to not condition his statement, though in truth, the space between his words said it all.
When it comes to Logan, I don’t think anyone would ever feel compelled to describe him as a hard worker. The beauty in it is that he will tell you that working hard is not his goal. Logan’s self-proclaimed paradigm of life is more about efficiency. Why would one work 150% if one could get the same, better, or more rewarding results, with 80% effort? From the view of the parent, coach, teacher, or employer, the argument lies in comparing results.
I was taken back to my own childhood, teen years, and era of young adulthood. I was faced with the cold hard truth of being wholly and purely about work ethic. That hard grueling place where if one isn’t putting forth physical, mental, emotional AND spiritual grind, there was just no purpose to it. It was this specific day when I realized my son had not been transferred this ethic in his DNA. Or so it appeared to this point. I was awestruck, devastated, dumfounded, confused, and paralyzed for at least a nanosecond upon this realization.
I felt it so deeply; I immediately launched into self-investigation and impatiently questioned whether I could accept this. Perhaps I needed to parent this efficiency paradigm right out of him. Drive it out with more traditional, tried, and true ways of existence such as those I experienced, not to mention all my ancestors that came before me, who willingly and proudly propelled it down through generation after generation of DNA.
Yes I have been programmed, heavily and deeply programmed. For a moment I decided, yes I would parent this lackadaisical attitude that will only lead him into failure, right out of him! I will reprogram, I thought, for as deeply as I am programmed he must have some recessive, hidden gene in his DNA. He must hold some preloaded plasticity that would make possible the changes for old hard-wired programming to transfix into him, bludgeoning in the idea of working hard as the reason and ticket you get at the end of the day in order to be able to look yourself in the mirror. At the end of the day if you can say you gave your every breath, every muscular contraction, every emotional and mental processing, and every prayer to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for a job well done for the hardest worker, then you had succeeded. Yes, that was the plan. Reprogramming!
In the next moment, as a plethora of examples fell forth from my memory with experience after experience confirming the truth that after 47 years of “working hard” at most everything I have ever done, I was exhausted. The images and memories fatigued me. All I could notice was the seriousness and fortitude in absence of joy and lighthearted laughter. I thought perhaps he is on to something.
In fact, I had just been reading The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris who defines this efficiency paradigm for the work place, which coincidentally is very non-traditional. In it he describes efficiency and intrigue as the components for building a career. This author put words to Logan’s paradigm of life, and unknowingly described in detailed nuance how Logan approaches and lives out the moments of his life. The author is very convincing, confident, and dare I say, grapples with egotistic ways of self-inflation and importance. In spite of this, the book and the paradigm were oddly validating.
What if Logan is right? What if he is on to something? What if we lived more in the present moment and decided how we would spend our time based on interest, intrigue, or any attribute other than how much output is required to make us proud of our daily accomplishments? What if we used a different measuring stick and something other than hard work for worthiness of looking ourselves in the eye at the end of the day?
Coming back to the room, I felt certain that however Logan carries out his life it will be just right for him and likely for others. I let my breath out exhaling any anxiety and apprehension of what coach might say contrary to him being a hard worker. I sat inhaling and exhaling in self- compassion and love for my young teen for whatever part I had in programming this young fellow. I felt proud of him as an independent thinker, an autonomous doer and an active participant in life for the things he finds intriguing and interesting. There was no reason to deprogram and reprogram, which, ironically, would require so much work. I felt certain at that moment, that with tight enough reigns to keep him whole and alive yet loose enough for him to determine, to his heart’s content, what it is that intrigues him he would find his way with ease, despite his DNA.
I sat listening to coach describe Logan. Of note, he did not mention what a hard worker Logan was. He mentioned many things, like his stats of being the 2nd best rebounder on the team with 50% rebounding as a sophomore, second only to the starting senior point guard, amidst a team of seniors. I was not as much interested in what this meant for his basketball team and what this meant to the coach. I was interested in what this spoke to regarding my son…an extremely talented athlete, according to coach. Could this point to his intrigue? Could this point to his natural talents? Could this be what he would like to develop in himself? Could it be what a great mentor of mine would say repeatedly “the good ones make it look easy.”
I am proud of Logan for being in a group called a team, but not necessarily being of the group. Many life lessons are learned in a group, on a field, or a court. To be part of a group but not completely of the group is tricky, in particular in the arena of athletics. It is expected that you give up self for the whole…for the team.
My son is apparently not willing to do this. He stands out in that he isn’t the hardest worker. Perhaps if he can continue putting forth his light of individuality as he matures, and instead of being observed as falling short of hard working, this will inspire his coach, or any coach for that matter, to think outside their own box of hard work.
The truth is many of us work hard and we still fail to achieve what we are perceivably trying to accomplish. This then gives us official license and permission to ruthlessly critique our efforts and bruise ourselves into believing we are failures.
The further we get outside the box of working hard the more likely we are to move towards something more rewarding or naturally efficient for us. If we are able to identify something we naturally carry out with ease, intrigue, and joy the more likely we are to be moved towards our own goodness; down a path that has the potential of looking starkly different than the one of expectation.
Ease begets ease, efficiency begets efficiency….. And the good ones make it look easy.