I was watching an old documentary on B.B. King. I’ll never forget his comment when talking about up and coming blues guitar players, “I likes to tell ‘em, “Don’t try to be the best one, just be a good one.’”
What? Why, that’s un-American. And it’s being said by, arguably, one of the best blues guitar players in history.
We’ve grown up trying to be the best. It’s in the very fabric of our culture. In the mind so many people second place is considered the same as a loser. I mean, at least B.B. could have said to be a “really” good one. But just a plain ole simple “good one.” Nah, I think the guy’s probably a Communist.
The Practically Impossible “Best”
I know a bit about baseball. Check this out: 5,000,000 kids will play youth baseball; of that huge number only 500,000 will play in HS; of that, just 50K will play in college; of the 50K college players just 5,000 will get drafted into the pros.
Now let’s get radical. Of the 5,000 drafted into professional baseball just 50 (yes! 50) will play in the big leagues; and finally of the 50 for that year only “5” will receive super player contracts. So back to the beginning… Of the 5,000,000 kids dreaming of being a professional baseball player each year, only FIFTY will make it. (Stats are “a story” told by highly respected baseball agent, Scott Boras.)
Maybe B.B. King is onto something. We should call it… “sanity.” Really. If you contemplate it a bit, trying to “the best” is pretty senseless. No matter the discipline, you will be competing with 10’s or 1000’s or even millions. And there’s only “one” who is best. Your chance of being that best one is virtually nil. And yet, there’s some crazy voice telling you that you need to be number one, the best.
Yea sure. That’s just what you need alright: more stress, more pressure, more late night studies, more late nights at work and overtime, more soccer games, more private coaching or tutoring, more, more, more.
When is good enough, good enough? The Italian economist/philosopher Pareto observed that it requires only 20% of our effort to achieve 80% of our result (the 80/20 Rule) and 80% of effort to achieve the final 20%. There are very few things most of us will ever do that require more that 80-90% perfection. In fact, most of our tasks require much less. Yea, you know, like “I own the best lawn mower on the street.” Yippee!!! How cool is that? Not!!!
Our Cultural Drivers to be “The Best One”
Besides our parents, our culture drives us to develop…
- A need to be considered “great” or “the best.”
- A need to be admired or respected.
- A need to be better than someone else.
For some reason, we tend to think we’re “less than” if we don’t. That’s a lie.
Just Be a Good One
Last week I wrote, “a good man is hard to find.” The truth is, I know a very few great men, and a huge boatload of good men. And you know what? That’s my goal: To be a “good man.” That’s it. If fact, wouldn’t it be cool if your headstone read, “He Was a Good Man?” Wow! What an honor.
So what would define “a good man?” Here are just a few ideas:
- He provided for his family.
- He helped his friends.
- He worked with kids.
- He stood up for the disenfranchised.
- He didn’t judge others because they disagreed with him, or didn’t dress like him, or didn’t act like him.
- He was the first to lend a helping hand.
- He always tried to learn more, be more and do more—without stressing over it.
My final thoughts go to the creation motif in the Bible. After the first five days, God said, “It is good.” Not great, “good.” And then on the sixth day, he simply said it is “very” good.
I’ve seen great men and women, and I have admired them greatly. But I would never want their lives for myself. Too frantic. Too self-indulged. Too many ridiculous hours.
Nah, give me “The Good Life.” The one full of joy and love and service and kindness and fun. The one with meaning, adventure and awe!
So let me encourage you to rediscover sanity, a good life with a taste of goodness and a pinch of adventure. Let me help you desire, “The Good Life.”