It’s not easy being surrounded by the best all of the time, but it is the best place to be. Inspiration drives a lot of things, and how to be inspired has been one of the biggest lessons that I have learned through sport. To me, there is a huge difference between working for something because you are inspired and because you are jealous or envious. This past Sunday was Senior Night for the seniors on the women’s basketball team, and it really got me thinking. I was trying to explain, even to myself, what it is like being around the best of the best every single day, and what that means. Why do I enjoy my time with them so much?
It starts with the things we notice. Recently I watched a TED Talk about why our generation seems to be in such a downward spiral and why we seem to be struggling so much with self-worth and purpose. The consensus seemed to be that we spend too much time comparing and less time being observant and learning. Every day I am around two people who I look up to greatly in our seniors. They aren’t perfect, and they aren’t good at everything, but they are inspiring, and I believe our team takes notice of it. Again, the things we notice are what make the difference. Here’s my take:
People spend a lot of time on their phones. We live through social media, comparing our number of likes on a photo to someone else’s, constantly trying to one up that really pretty girl’s outfit we saw at the party or that guy’s dancing and music taste. We envy the shade of green of the other person’s grass. I doubtfully wonder if trying to be the “best” in this way teaches us anything. It puts us in a perpetual “we’re not as good as everyone else spiral,” and being at Stanford, well, it isn’t a secret that comparison and competition drive the reason we study all night in many cases. Yet I say many, not all, and I believe that a team environment promotes something a little different.
Sports instill something in us from a young age. They keep us active and motivated and surrounded by like-minded kids. They surround us with the Brittany McPhees who work towards their goals with pure passion. They surround us with the Kaylee Johnsons who energize the room as soon as they walk in, and let you know when you’re slipping up, but make sure you don’t fall off of the train. We learn to play/work with other people, we learn to be passionate and we learn to learn. The key, however, is that in sports it is hard to define who is the best, because there are so many ways to be the best. Kaylee may be the best at rebounding, whereas Brittany may be the best at scoring. To me, there is one thing that can be generalized, one thing that everyone can aim to be the best at, inspiring others, and these two do it impeccably well.
The reciprocal is just as important, in learning how to be consciously inspired. Before practice the other day, Tara showed us a video from the recent Olympics. Simen Hegstad Kruger won the Olympic Gold medal in cross-country skiing, after falling in the very beginning of the race. He blew everyone’s mind. The first thing I tried to think of was how his passion motivated and inspired me, and how I could motivate my teammates. I tried not to think of envying his success, wanting it for my own. Being human, those thoughts are very common and we are all guilty of them. But the reason I think this team has been so successful is our selflessness and our willingness to look to one another for inspiration, especially to our seniors. Jealousy tears a lot of teams apart, but not ours.
So what is it like being surrounded by the best of the best every day? It depends on what we choose to notice, and the environments we are in. It is easy to be inspired by those who want to inspire, those who have learned how to be observant. So be the best at inspiring others to do things, be the best at being inspired because the world needs the intangibles. To me, that’s what being the best means.
Contact Mikaela Brewer at mbrewer8 ‘at’ stanford.edu.