Jiu-Jitsu Letter

Fall in Love with Who You Are

Seth Godin:

Try to imagine the third grade or fifth grade or ninth grade class where kids show up to do arithmetic, or maybe even math. Once they’ve gotten a little bit farther along and the teacher says, oh, you’re trying really hard, but you’re not nearly as good at math as the other kids, you shouldn’t even bother,

Or, perhaps they say you’re the best person at doing math in this whole classroom, but you’re never going to win a Fields Medal. You shouldn’t even bother.

This whole idea of elite sports is fundamentally flawed. It’s flawed mathematically because the number of people who can win a gold medal in curling or downhill mogul or surfing or tennis or whatever sport you want to pick, can only be one. And if we’re going to sign people up to compete with one another where there’s only one slot for a winner and everybody else is somehow denigrated because their status isn’t high enough, I think we’ve made a significant mistake.

Because the purpose of a soccer team is not to collect soccer trophies. The school is not suffering from a trophy shortage. Spending time and money to push kids who are six or 12 or 15 years old to win at a game where they are playing against other kids who need to lose for them to win, teaches them nothing of much significance because winning or losing is largely based on the caliber of the people they are playing against. That’s not teaching them very much.

Saying to a kid you are benched because you don’t have genetic advantages that make you taller or faster, therefore you don’t get to play, teaches them nothing much in particular. Spending taxpayer money, spending the time of students to put them into quote, elite situations, where the measurement of performance is whether they happen to beat the person who is next to them, makes no sense to me whatsoever.

If Jesse Owens or Mark Spitz were competing today, they would lose every race. Does that mean they’re losers? I don’t think so.

I think that the purpose of sports is to teach people to fall in love with who they are, to be able to push themselves to be better than they are, not to be better than somebody else, but to progress, to find joy.

That the purpose of team sports is to teach kids to play in a team. And if you’re a hero because you scored a goal and you’re a goat because you didn’t, that’s not what teamwork is. So we have this massive opportunity to use physical interaction, to teach kids things like cooperation and strategy and insight, and yes, the ability to compete when the stakes are high.

But no, keeping track of trophies makes no sense whatsoever. And this whole idea of division one versus division three and big sports and institutions spending hundreds of millions of dollars. I was on the road a few years ago, and there was at a not famous college, the private jet for their football team.

Tell me how a famous college, or not famous college, can justify having a private jet, so their football team can travel across the country to play football against other teams. What is the point of that? How do we justify that in terms of the development of human beings? So I can rant about this all day, but I appreciate you bringing it up.

I’m glad you’re still like to run and I’m sorry, the coaches and the system ruined running 40, 50, 60 years of running for your friends, who ended up going to a place that thought trophies were the point.

On his podcast, Seth Godin answered a question from a listener, who was a runner with runner friends that burned out after pursuing it seriously in college, then stopped running altogether. https://shows.acast.com/akimbo/episodes/the-ethnic-aisle

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