… being better than everyone else?
Picture the scene:
1992 NBA Finals - Game 6 - Chicago versus Portland
Chicago leads the series 3-2. They’ve just rallied from behind to take the lead in the closing minutes. A pumped up Michael Jordan comes to the bench during the timeout* and implores his team mates to keep going - to give more - greatness is near. His coach, the legendary Phil Jackson, looks up at Jordan and says:
‘Mike, can’t you just be happy being better than everyone else? I mean, isn’t it enough that we’re here in the Finals? Why do we all have to work so hard just because you want to win so bad?’
You’ve never heard that quote, because I made it up. You’d never hear a sports coach suggest to their players to settle for just being better. I doubt Roger Federer ever settled for being better, nor Serena Williams. When the University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball Team were on their way to a NCAA record 111 game win streak, I don’t think their coach ever called a meeting to say:
‘Turns out we’re better than everyone. I’m satisfied. Are we all satisfied here? Yeah? Let’s call it a season, huh?’
We’d never do that to an athlete. We expect them to improve, to want to improve, to be their best. Turns out we don’t all have the same expectations of students in our schools.
Now picture this scene:
It’s the 2018 school year. A mature, highly motivated and high achieving student goes off to high school only find the work boring and unchallenging. She’s not satisfied, she wants the challenges, she wants to be pushed - inspired even. She seeks to rectify this situation by communicating her concerns to the school. A teacher, rich with experience and knowledge offers her the consolatory words:
‘Why can’t you just be happy being better than everyone else?’
Ptssssssssssssssss … that’s the sound of enthusiasm for school being deflated.
* An important note about that Game 6 in the 92 NBA Finals. Chicago’s 4th quarter comeback win occurred with Michael Jordan sitting on the bench for most of the quarter. Turns out even the greatest of all time needed a high quality, hardworking team around him to reach the heights of his success. I wonder if children work the same way?